The 60 Greatest Never Mind the Buzzcocks Episodes (#s 30 to 21)

Right. That took a bit, didn’t it?

As this list continues to surge up my ‘most read’ posts, I figure I should continue this countdown before I lost any more interest.

Now into the top half of this list. We’re getting into the territory of some of my favorites, even though there are a few ‘I’m remiss if I don’t include this one’ shows in this portion of the list.

But luckily, we’re starting with a sentimental favorite…

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#30- S27E03
Host: Peter Andre
Captains: Phill & Noel Fielding
Panelists: Tony Law, Jason Gardiner, Ana Matronic, Charles Cave

Like James Blunt, I completely misjudged Peter Andre upon his guest hosting-stint. I thought that just because he SEEMED like a talentless, fame-grubbing celeb, he’d come off like one as well. Not even remotely true. This was several years after I’m A Celebrity brought him back, and a few years after he’d sort of gone back to earth. This was a humbler, smarter Peter Andre. One who could make fun of himself.

…and thank god for that, or else it would have been a slog. The whole show, Peter had copious amounts of ITV cameramen following him for an upcoming reality show, talking right to them a few times. He also was able to laugh at himself, as after about 30 seconds of his IAC-assisted hit Insania, he pleaded for someone to turn it off. Additionally, he was able to jump in and school Phill and Ana about how to properly do his song’s intro, he brought on Bubbla Ranks for ID Parade, and he was able to grin and bear it when someone, namely Scissor Sisters’ Ana Matronic, made a crack at his ex-girlfriend.

But even with him, and his autocue reads, you still had an insanely relaxed panel. Jason Gardiner may have been one of the most laid-back and charismatic guests they’d had on in a while, Ana Matronic was hysterical in her debut Buzzcocks appearance, and…Tony Law…one of my favorite guests of this era…was wonderful. As if he’d be anything less. Some of his stuff is so bizarre, but he’s got this insanely wholesome quality about him which DEFINITELY shows up in this one.

Andre ran a tight ship, the panel was hysterical and was able to branch out, and by the end, when Ana was riling off Ice Ice Baby lyrics like scripture, everything came together in a really fun way. Definitely a favorite of mine.

Best Moment: Oh, I dunno…the entire Insania round that Peter introduces, where he can’t even get through a question because people keep responding to “Who am I?” [“PETER!”]

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#29: S21E12
Host: Simon Amstell
Captains: Phill & Bill Bailey
Panelists: Dale Winton, Moby, David O’Doherty, Jamelia 

Right. Another American television metaphor to explain why I like this one so much.

In 1977, actor Charles Grodin hosted Saturday Night Live. You probably have seen Grodin in something [Midnight Run, The Great Muppet Caper, Heaven Can Wait, Beethoven, etc], but know that his schtick in this era was being the out-of-touch middle-aged guy who didn’t really understand a lot of modern innovations. So, he proceeded to use this character on this SNL episode. How, you might ask? By breaking character in several sketches due to not understanding how the show works, or that the show was being taped live, or that there were rehearsals. He came off like someone completely immune to this modern comedy, but in a way that seemed to pick apart all of the flaws and intricacies of the show.

Grodin did this intentionally, working with the writers, and it came off terrifically, to the point where to this day, people think he wasn’t putting on an act.

I feel like Charles Grodin would have appreciated Moby’s performance on Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Because it was essentially the same thing. Moby has this personality of being kind of out-of-touch, and he spent most of the show generally confused by how Simon was running things…and yet he used this dissonance for the sake of humor, rather than to take other people out of the show. Like Grodin, Moby was lawfully funny while at the same time contrasting with the show’s clientele. It’s what Arthur Smith did for years without effort.

Imagine for a moment, this show without Moby; Dale Winton is Phill’s guest and has a segment devoted to him, and is gleefully ridiculed by Simon. Jamelia and David O’Doherty are Bill’s team, and they only have things to work off of, as not a ton of humor comes unintentionally from them. Simon is trying to cram material in for the compilation, so he’s trying to make entertaining moments happen. And Bill Bailey is leaving the show after this episode.

Alone, sans-Moby, this show sounds kind of self-indulgent, a lot like every other Simon show of this era. It’s the kind of show that needs an oomph, or some element that brings the humor forward rather than keeping it contained. And Moby…yes, ‘Natural Blues’ Moby…was the one to bring it forward, by letting the audience in on how preposterous this show had become.

Yes, the Winton slams were fantastic enough, but if it weren’t for Moby pulling the ‘Dale please stand’ card up to the camera, it would have felt less staged- the point, and the source of the humor, was that it WAS kind of staged. Plus, early on David makes a joke about how his hair is essentially one big piece, which is funny enough on its own…but then Moby COMPLETELY INVERTS it as a way of saying David was rubbing it in towards Moby, a bald guy.

Even Simon’s ‘compilation fodder’ runner sort of backfires, despite some great shots of Jamelia throwing breakaway bottles at Bill. A live chicken is released onset, and instead of causing chaos…the chicken walks right toward Moby, the noted vegan and environmentalist, and behaves for the rest of his time onstage. I’m not saying Moby is responsible for all the good jokes in this one: I’m just saying he made the best jokes stronger.

Otherwise, this is a lawful, great show. ID Parade has 10 Blazing Squad options. Moby and Phill’s intros are great. Next Lines ends on Dale getting the entire audience to do the Supermarket Sweep slogan. It’s a generally solid show, just made even funnier by Moby deconstructing the whole program as it runs.

Best Moment: After Simon asks Jamelia about her shampoo: “I hate when you ask me questions because I know you’re gonna come up with some horrible bitchy punchline at the end of it…”
Simon, smirking: “Shit…I’ve been found out.”

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#28: S04E04
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill & Sean Hughes
Panelists: Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Jayne Middlemiss, Sean Cullen, Ken McAlpine

Buzzcocks is one of those shows where you can watch episodes out of order, if you want, but there are some running gags or insult targets that’ll just pop up out of nowhere. Somebody watching Series 7 and 8 of the show, without seeing the early stuff, would probably ask “gee, why the hell is Mark Lamarr taking so much of the mick at Sophie Ellis-Bextor”

…this episode is why.

Series 4 may have been an all-time high for episode-long runners, with a MAJOR one in E1, minor ones in episodes 4, 5 and 6, and…this one. But one of the things about these runners is that you could tell when one had just been extended enough, and you can tell when one is overstaying its welcome. At the penultimate playing of ‘Heath and Danger’, Vic Reeves gives a teeth-gritting, ‘enough of this already’ look to the camera. As funny as that runner was (and believe me, we will get there), it seemed to go on for too long.

And the same could be said for this show’s runner: Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s mom used to be a host of Blue Peter, so the whole show, everyone (especially Mark) is making Blue Peter jokes. True, they are well-thought-out Blue Peter jokes (like Mark showing a photo of his pet turtle, with ‘Puff Daddy’ engraved onto his shell), but they just…keep coming. And from all sides, too: Sean Hughes (and even Sean Cullen) start joining in on her panel.

The difference between this Sophie abuse and whenever Mark would gang up on…say…Chris Moyles…is that Sophie didn’t exactly deserve it. She was a very lawful, fun panelist who cracked some nice jokes and WOULD HAVE had a good time, had it not been for the onslaught of Blue Peter jokes. At least when Moyles complained of not having a good time, he deserved it. But Sophie, by the end, seemed annoyed with the constant bashings, to the point where I don’t think she enjoyed herself.

…and then Mark continued to make fun of her on the program. She only came back on the show once Simon Amstell was hosting, and somehow HE was nicer.

Still, it wasn’t the kind of abuse that left a sour taste in anyone else’s mouth, really. The rest of the show was a ton of fun, with comedy naturally arising out of rounds, like Jayne and Phill’s intros, Sean’s entire Freeze Frame round, featuring the clip of Mystic Merlin, and even Phill’s Freeze Frame round, which has one of my favorite successions of lines in the show’s history:

Phill: “Basically, what happens next: The hippie movement imploded with the end of the Vietnam war. And, the eventual Watergate Scandal and the collapse of the Nixon administration, led to a number of feeble, left wing administrations, which led to a strengthening of the right-”
Mark: ‘No-no, I meant what happens next in this video.”
Phill: “Oh, oh, right. Does the fat bird fall over?”

Also, special nod to Sean Cullen, friend of the Mochries and Canadian unsung hero, for boosting material just by sitting next to Sean. A very funny guy that could have done another Buzzcocks if he wanted to.

Best Moment: Phill and Mark have an entire argument about whether or not Phill gave Ken a hint in Intros, which ends with a stuffed monkey being thrown about the stage.

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#27: S19E03
Host: Simon Amstell
Captains: Phill & Bill
Panelists: Bill Oddie, Stewart Lee, Tony Mortimer, Jason Pebworth

Three episodes into Simon Amstell’s tenure on NMTB, skeptics were fearing the worst. True, Simon was biting as hell, but the panels felt limp and the guest bookings felt uninspired. Going into this one, it seemed more of the same: two fringe music has-beens, an old comedy mainstay, and…a comedian that was only doing panel shows to pay for his wedding. It didn’t seem like much. BUT…here is where the Simon Amstell era really took off.

…and all it took was former Goodie and Springwatch presenter Bill Oddie to go batshit insane over the course of a 30 minute episode.

Not…in an unwatchable way, though. In a very lawfully-batty way. Like, Oddie played the game, made funny comments…but after a while, Oddie started losing comprehension, and started getting more and more confused about how Intros worked, and how the game worked. And he just kept getting more and more animated about how lost he was. Meanwhile, Simon and the panel could only do their best to keep him in line (“SHOOSH ODDIE!”), and Bill, thank god, is insanely patient, but it just turned into the ‘let’s watch Bill Oddie have a meltdown’ show.

Which…doesn’t sound funny. I mean, one episode later Amy Winehouse (who, fun fact, was supposed to be on this episode) has a meltdown of her own, but there’s NOTHING funny about that. Here, not only does Bill Oddie have SOME self-awareness amidst the battiness, but the rest of the panel is there to bounce off this. ESPECIALLY Stewart Lee, who was on fire during this show, and had some very funny lines at Oddie’s expense.

And even despite that, Simon’s show running hit its stride, with a very funny digressive round ‘Diva or Beaver’ (the reaction shots of which will always crack me up), as well as a plethora of hats to annoy Orson’s Jason Pebworth with, and just some really good show-running lines and asides. Here, Simon felt confident, fresh, and up for anything, including Bill Oddie going nuts. And this didn’t seem to faze him either, nor did it seem to faze Bill or Phill.

An odd show…but still an effective show. Ironically, that’s how I’d describe #26 as well.

Best Moment: Stewart, after the umpteenth Bill Oddie distraction: “The only way to edit tonight’s episode is not with sharp cuts, but with a series of long, slow fades.”

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#26: S10E05
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill & Sean
Panelists: Pete Burns, Christian O’Connell, Kerry Katona, Ashley Taylor Dawson

Typically when something wild happens in a taping, like Huey Morgan smashing a mug, Preston walking off, or Mark whapping Bill in the head with his cards, it happens towards the end. So you can get a taste of how the show normally works, and so that it can eventually devolve into madness, and then recover.

That’s how it’s supposed to go.

So imagine my surprise when a Pete Burns argument that I knew was coming happened LITERALLY IN THE FIRST ROUND OF THE SHOW. And not even one concerning his team, too: Mark was explaining Phill’s Jon Bon Jovi question, and Pete Burns starts arguing because he thought his guess of ‘they were caught shagging’ was correct. Which…it wasn’t. It’s not like an Angus Deayton thing where he calls it incorrect because it wasn’t his phrasing of the question. I genuinely don’t think Mark had it on the card that Bon Jovi was caught screwing someone in an ice rink, but Pete Burns really, REALLY SEEMED TO THINK SO.

And so, with this clapped-out, over-operated 80s has-been sniping at him in literally the first round…Mark Lamarr proceeds to spend the entire show giving him shit about it. Like, 95% of the episode is the show trying to recover from that opening argument, and…kinda failing when Pete Burns does something else, like accost Sean Hughes when he doesn’t do the right thing in Intros. There’s no real recovery. The rest of the show is just…the Pete Burns show.

…and it’s frigging hysterical. Because unlike a lot of other meltdowns we’ve seen, it’s not an especially sad, drastic one. He’s just being difficult. It’s not like Bill Oddie or Amy Winehouse, where sanity’s been lost. Pete Burns was just being a prick, and being himself, and…the show had to go on. And…that it did.

Once the Burns incident happened, anyone else who might be a punchline, like Kerry Katona and Ashley Taylor Dawson, shifted into safe mode. And yes, Mark had some fun with Kerry’s recent marriage to Brian McFadden, and Ashley’s claim that Robert DeNiro should play him in a movie, but both of them were clearly not the main target anymore. It’s entirely just Pete Burns stuff, ands thankfully it’s funny. Hell, at one point, Sean just ditches intros to operate a camera. At least Pete was bringing out the best in everyone.

Just a wild show, and definitely a classic.

Best Moment: This line:
Pete: “I think children all over the world will go to bed tonight…learning something from us.”
Mark: “…not to watch Buzzcocks next week?”

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#25: S28E08
Host: Rhod Gilbert
Captains: Phill & Noel
Panelists: Paloma Faith, Loyd Grossman, Charlie Simpson and Katherine Ryan

On iMDB, I think this is one of the lowest-rated Buzzcocks episodes, thanks to the low general opinion of Rhod Gilbert’s hosting stint. I’ve done my best to defend Rhod’s run best that I could, and I found myself laughing hard of several of his episodes, even if his hosting style would be way too strict occasionally.

Plus, people cite that they resorted to too many gimmicks, and got away from the heart of the show. It felt at times like Buzzcocks was trying too hard. Which is fair.

And then we have 25×08, which was wild without much intervention. It just had four guests that were great at interacting, a ton of really fun, genuine moments, and the image of gastronome Loyd Grossman squirming while taking a whipped cream shot. Trying too hard my ass. This panel completely annihilated any attempt at over-exaggerating the show’s charm.

First of all, since I haven’t had any chances to say this during this countdown, Paloma Faith was the single best panelist of the Guest Host era. She just was. Not only is she a talented singer, but she was bonkers in a way that perfectly complimented not only the show, but Noel. So having her and Noel together one last time was wonderful, as was she. Loyd collaborated with those two a ton, and all three were having a fantastic time, even with the whipped-cream bra, and the random slice of lemon drizzle cake leading to Paloma getting a part of her costume stuck in it, and Rhod deducting a point. Even if this was engineered, it couldn’t have been orchestrated to land this wildly.

And that’s not to say that Phill’s panel, of Katherine Ryan and Charlie Simpson, was bad. God no. Charlie was his usual posh, kinda aloof self, and managed to block Phill from taking a bite of the cake. Katherine did her usual panel show stuff, which helps. And Phill had a ton of good, lawful, lines. But this wasn’t a lawful show. Shit went mad. One of the options in ID Parade was a live rabbit, and Noel actually picked it [Paloma: “I LOVE YOU FOR THAT!”]

This show got so wild that Rhod, in a visual clue, brought his dog Rosie onstage, some of the cards got messed up, Phill switched teams, and Katherine spent the entire Next Lines round picking cards off the floor to hand to Rhod. The show damn near got broken…and it was delightful. At the time I called this the most wholesome Buzzcocks show, and that’s not too far off. It’s an insanely feel-good show, and it may be the last great NMTB show they did.

So…all of y’all can have opinions about the Rhod shows, but I liked a few of them. In fact, there’s one in my top ten. So there.

Best Moment: 
Noel: “Better not be DMs.”
Paloma: “Aww…Uggs.”

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#24: S16E04
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill & Bill
Panelists: Fearne Cotton, Steve Frost, Pete Tong & Chris Park

There are two specific shows on this list that only work because of their last half. Like, oh, the first half is fine, there are funny moments, but there is one specific moment that elevates things to a level that the show can’t come back from.

This is one of those shows. Because it starts off as a fairly normal show. Pete Tong says some funny things. Fearne and Bill have a funny Intros round. Steve is hilarious. But it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

So what pushes this to the next level, exactly? I mean….I wish it was something less lowest-common-denominator, but…a bunch of people show up in food costumes and stand in front of Phill Jupitus.

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Yeah. That’s it.

From an entire bit with Phill Jupitus openly lusting after two ID Parade members dressed as food, we’re off to the races. Because we have that entire bit, then we have Phill’s entire Next Lines, which is also food related, and causes him to just yell the ‘KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN AND A PIZZA HUT’ lyric after everything [“What do you see when you turn out the light?” “KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN AND A PIZZA HUT”]

And just when you think Phill’s gonna win the whole show, Bill steals it from him in HIS Next Lines round, by just going off on a ridiculous bit about elephant’s ears after Mark keeps picking on Fearne with children’s songs, and then ending with a soulful Judy Tzueke rendition.

But why does it work? And why does it make me laugh so hard? Yeah, that’s why this countdown is working, the analytical bits, because it’s not just recap. That’d be passe.

It works because Mark had already asked if his heart had gone out of this series, you could tell we were teetering on the verge of Mark not caring anymore, and we needed a wild show to cement that Buzzcocks could still do big things. Also, the second half worked because the entire first half was building to it. Chris and Phill’s banter pays off in ID Parade. Fearne and Mark’s pays off in Next Lines. Bill’s already shaken because Mark called him out in Intros for noises that weren’t in the song. Everything was simmering, and then in the second half it all just comes to life and doesn’t stop. And I love shows like that.

Only one other show has a kind of simmering like that, and it’s coming up. But this one is just a blast, just for that second half, and for Bill just coming out of nowhere in Next Lines.

Best Moment: “We’re going to the zoo…zoo…zoo.”


#23: S23E10
Host: Dermot O’Leary
Captains: Phill & Noel
Panelists: Michael Ball, Russell Tovey, Aston Merrygold & David O’Doherty 

Two straight Guest Host picks now, and i’m going for two different approaches. This one works because of a host that could stand out, and make an insanely big show pop during a season of basic ones. Because Dermot O’Leary knows how to present a big show, and dammit, he’s gonna do that everywhere he goes.

The thing is, like Peter Andre, Dermot completely undid a lot of the expectations of being fake and autocue friendly, and came off as insanely loose and fun, challenging Aston Merrygold to do a backflip midshow, embracing the spontaneity of sound effects and mishaps, and even poking fun at Jedward, a duo he himself helped introduce to the world.

Plus, the show was peppered with Peter Dickson VOs of all the contestants [RUSSELL TOVEY!], and it gave a very theatrical, epic feel to it. Not that it didn’t already, with David O’Doherty and his panda jokes already contributing to a fun atmosphere, and Phill and Michael Ball getting along famously with an epic intro of Superstar from Jesus Christ Superstar [to which Russell, smirkingly, guesses “…West Side Story.”

What makes this show feel so classic is the fact that Dermot himself is very laid back as a host, and he just gives this comfortable, insanely fun vibe to the whole thing, so that even with the aforementioned backflip stunt he suckers Aston into, it still feels like it’s just for some laughs. Every punchline feels bigger with Peter Dickson accentuating it. In the heat of an uncertain, hostless season, the show finally felt strong and satisfactory.

Best Moment: Dermot sets Phill’s team up for a Next Line from Hairspray’s ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’. Michael AND Phill both have played the part of Edna Turnblad. So both, in unison, do the next SEVERAL LINES, complete with choreography. It’s a satisfying-ass moment.

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#22: S27E02
Host: Russell Howard
Captains: Phill and Noel
Panelists: Stacey Solomon, Conor Maynard, Lethal Bizzle, Isy Suttie

Season 27’s a weird one in terms of the Guest Host era, because you could tell that now, more than ever, they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel with guest bookings. John Hannah from the Mummy films? Sure. Kristen Schaal? Fine. Rizzle Kicks? Just keep them away from Huey Morgan.

One of the few true comic bookings they tried in S27, and Jack Whitehall doesn’t count because he’s not funny, was Russell Howard, the former NMTB panelist and current TV personality. I’ve said many times that Russell was the closest we ever got to having Mark Lamarr back, and I stand by it.

Russell is, at his heart, a kid humorist, and a lot of his jokes are kind of cute, not exactly sophisticated. Like the Seth Meyers of the UK. Perhaps he got better after Mock the Week, but  that’s the sense I got from him. What he was always good at, though, was pointing out satirical things that happened in real time, like pointing out whenever Frankie would try a mood change, or interacting with an audience member. Russell was quick on his feet, was good at improv, and knew when to interact with something.

And all throughout this episode, he interacted and fought back against this show. Stacey Solomon biffs an animal impersonation early? He keeps COMING BACK TO HER FOR MORE ANIMAL IMPRESSIONS, and makes it one of the lasting jokes of the show [I still laugh at him, in his David Attenborough, going ‘HERE WE HAVE THE MIGHTY BEAR. STACEY?’]. Lethal Bizzle have a ridiculous comeback tweet? Ridicule him about it throughout the 2nd half. It doesn’t come off like the usual ‘interrupt the game to screw with people’ stuff we’d see a lot in this era, it came off more natural, like ‘I genuinely want to know about this’. A lot like Mark would do.

And yet through this environment we had some of the strongest autocue reads and jokes of this era, some of the funniest joke runs of this era [the entire round with Noel’s team and Shakira, John Lennon and the sea lion has SO MANY funny lines], and some of the silliest lawful malapropisms [Stacey’s David Bowie miscommunication is right up there with Toyah Wilcox’s JFK confusion]. So from all of this, I have  to assume that Russell Howard is just really good at leading a panel environment, and genuinely good at hosting things.

Just one of those funny shows I go back to a lot. Plus, like all Stacey Solomon shows, she gets made fun of yet still has a good time!

Best Moment: What’s that in the bin? Is it a FOX? STACEY?

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#21: S05E02
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill and Sean
Panelists: Junior Simpson, Faye Tozer, Sara Cox, Glen Matlock

When I initially did this watchdown, there were a few episodes that were missing from the youtube playlist I was using. The very first one was this one, 5×02. And I was confused, and kind of betrayed, and went onto the next one.

Well, 5×03 is directly influenced by this one, and the ID Parade featured a wide-eyed, staring black man named Athelston. I had no idea why there was recognition applause. I just knew something was funny, and Phill, Sean and Mark were goofing around, acting like he was hypnotizing them. It was genuinely hysterical, and one of those moments where I figured out how deliberate and silly this show could be.

Eventually I found out that 5×02 directly set it up, and found a rip of it, and it all made sense.

To this point, the show itself is pretty funny, actually. Junior Simpson has his best showing here, and his impressions of his dad, and his manic energy and laughing upon realizing Faye and Sean just tried to do Gangsta’s Paradise, were all memorable. It was also just a fun environment with Sara Cox cracking jokes, and Faye getting along really well with Mark. There’s also a legendary Mark autocue joke involving John Lennon that…nothing can prepare you for.

But then, halfway through the show, Athelston shows up, in a lineup for Edwin Starr. And nobody knows what to think of him. Sean absolutely loves him. Junior’s horrified. Sean keeps going back to how lovely he is, even as they have to guess, and even  if Sean  KNOWS who Edwin Starr is. The lines they roll off here about Athelston [my favorite is Sean going  “They probably said to him before he went out ‘now don’t move, just stay where you are’, and he said ‘I’VE GOT YA!”], are all classic, and just progressively get funnier, even as Edwin himself implores Athelston to finally move.

Thanks to this show, Athelston would be a welcome presence in any ID Parade [even appearing in one for the Nolans], and even the rest of the show, where Mark and Sean are still  shaken by him, and keep referencing it. It’s the kind of moment that offsets the tranquility and affects not only the rest of the show, but the rest of the series.

I knew then, upon finally watching this show, why it was so important in 5×03, and the rest of the show. No longer is Buzzcocks just a normal quiz show. There are other variables at play.

Best Moment: When Mark announces the real Edwin Starr, and “just to set my mind at ease, would #3 also step forward?”
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Hopefully the next part of this won’t take as much time, as we’re getting into the Top 20. I should tease that the next 10 entries include two appearances by one of my comedy heroes, two pop-chart icons, and a guy named Al dressed as a pirate.

The 60 Greatest Never Mind the Buzzcocks Episodes (#s 50 to 41)

Continuing the countdown, knocking out another post’s worth of the back half of the all time greats. I don’t know how it worked out that both my Rich Hall picks wound up back in the 50s, so I’ll tease that both picks of a NMTB legend wind up here. And that’s all I’ll tease, as we get right into it with #50:

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#50: S06E05
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill and Sean Hughes
Panelists: Boy George, Jo Brand, Suggs, Lisa Scott-Lee

First of all…THAT is a panel right there. Literally all four proved on multiple occasions that they could work with Mark, and work with NMTB stuff. Plus, any team with Suggs and a comedian is kind of like having two comedians, because Suggs is hella funny (On Rod Stewart and The Damned: “Can they both be repelled with garlic?”), and putting him on a panel with Jo Brand is perfect for both of their senses of humor.

But…another thing about the panel stacking is that I feel like they stacked Phill’s team with two separate kinds of great Mark dartboards: a member of Steps (Lisa) and an actual Boy George (Suggs, lol). Yes, Sean’s team here is great because Jo and Suggs are cracking jokes with Sean all night, and that alone is hysterical, as well as their ability to also throw stuff at the dartboards.

But…it’s really about Phill’s team. And more specifically, it’s really about Boy George. This was his best panel performance of his three episodes, and the fact that he gets along so well with Mark (in a very bitchy sort of way) elevates this tremendously. Like, when I saw that Boy George made some appearances, I was thinking it’d be more like…2008-era Boy George. Like, drunk, burnout, dialing-up-escorts Boy George. Forgetting, of course, that popstars have burnout periods and don’t always have their shit together (and now he’s a Celebrity Apprentice finalist, which is nice).

Boy George, especially in this episode, was jovial, quick, and having loads of fun. I still love the visual of George bopping his head (very faintly) back and forth as Lisa and Phill do their first intro (with Lisa on top of the desk). And…obviously the amount of good-natured gay jokes is sky-high, starting from a Rod Stewart fisting slam early on (Mark: “Well, we have an expert on the subject in the studio, so…”), going right through the rest of the show, comparing George’s spotted hat to something Cruella De Vil would wear, to…Mark and George just ending up flirting more than halfway through the show.

The thing is, even if the show is very Mark-George centric, there’s still time for a great Jo story involving Old Dirty Bastard, a ton of Steps jokes from Phill and Mark, a really funny ID Parade including an early appearance by Al the Pirate, and some really funny stuff from Phill. It, like a lot of S6 episodes, is PACKED. But it doesn’t feel overwhelming, thanks to Boy George just being super laid-back.

Best Moment:
George: “Is it the ‘ion sleeps tonight?”
Mark: “THE IRON SLEEPS TONIGHT! You know, from ‘The Iron King.” While they all sat around drinking ginger beer…GEORGE…YA BIG POOF!”

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#49: S16E07
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill & Bill Bailey
Panelists: Ricky Wilson, Ortis Deley, Jim Jeffries, Keisha White

Series 16 was around the time where Mark Lamarr would be a bit burned out by Buzzcocks, hence his departure. The thing is, of his last two series on the show, it was S16 where he really tried to keep things together and have a good time, whereas S17 was a bit less controlled and bit more lackadaisically-put-together. Plus, Mark was supposed to come back after Series 18, according to interviews, but Simon Amstell’s star was rising too quickly for anyone to contain. So he didn’t.

…If he had come back, I feel like it would have been a lot like this show. Because this show is very much rooted in the NOW, in the modern 2005-era scene, with Ricky Wilson and Keisha White, and 2005-era comedian Jim Jeffries. Like…there are no safety nets for Mark. No Mike Read or Barry Cryer or even Suggs. He had to make a show work with mostly new personalities that he didn’t have a huge connection to. And if he’d done Series 19, with new people like Lily Allen, John Barrowman and Vanessa Feltz (who he would have had a BALL making fun of), it’d be a lot like this one.

Because look at how much fun he was having with Ricky Wilson. Look at how hard he was laughing. And this is just the kid from the Kaiser Chiefs, the supposed heirs apparent of rock in 2005. He could have smacked him back to his own level, but Lamarr knew that Ricky had something. So he let him have a phenomenal night. And he definitely did, cracking Blue jokes like the best of them, and coming off as much a comedian as a musician.

That isn’t to say Mark’s hosting took a backseat. No, he was just as active as ever, making Ricky restart an intro for doing a ‘Bobby Darin count off’, and predicting how Bill’s team will immediately make a joke at Marilyn Manson’s expense. Plus, there’s Phill’s team’s entire ID Parade, where Phill, Ricky, Ortis Deley and Mark are all riffing on how they all look like lesbian cowboys (with Mark eventually adding “you know, I don’t mind lesbians. it’s COWBOYS i’m worried about). It’s a classic bit, one that kept building as the round, and the show, went on.

Still, even the littlest things worked. Even Bill screwing with HIS ID Parade worked. Even some solo lines from Jim Jeffries worked. Even Ricky Wilson insinuating the five male panelists could easily romance five lesbian cowboys. It all worked, in a way I don’t even think Mark expected it to.

So…I’d say that this was the last great Lamarr show, but…there’s one more from later than this coming up.

Best Moment:  Bill, with this ID Parade of younger guys, gets a sudden inspiration, and runs up to them saying “there’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
He enters from the side, crosses in front of the lineup, and goes “looking to meet guys in your area?”

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#48: S05E06
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill and Sean
Panelists: Toyah Wilcox, Adam Bloom, Kele Le Roc, Tom Gray 

What I’ll point out firstly about this episode’s success is that it didn’t even come from a particularly great panel. Tom and Kele didn’t do a great deal in this one, and Adam was only partially successful. Really, only Toyah Wilcox, the survivor of the punk scene, and of a few Derek Jarman films, had any bit of expertise and material…and thankfully she was able to stretch it out.

And before I even get to the Toyah bits with this one, note that this episode proved how on Phill and Sean, and Mark, were during this stretch. In the Bjork Freeze-Frame round, the jokes are flying from all cylinders (after Bjork’s teeth grow to huge heights, Mark: “The answer is she turns into Jack from ‘On the Buses’.”), Phill does the one effective impression he has all series with his loud, indecipherable Bjork, and they did manage a few really good Intros in this.

But…this is the Toyah show. Like the #50 pick, this was not Toyah’s first Buzzcocks, yet the main Toyah-bashing really began with this one, rather than her S3 appearance, which only had a few Teletubbies jokes. The Toyah-bashing was in the air from the very beginning, as nearly everything she said in the first round was essentially a set-up for a Mark joke.

Then, in Intros, Kele and Phill start going into ‘I Want to be Free’. While Toyah looks on. Now, they’d do this bit with other artists, like David Essex, but it arguably works the best here because the second Toyah hears her song, she immediately knows what they’re doing, and facepalms, giving herself away. Yes, Adam praises the song upon guessing it, and yes, she does get a fun moment as she sings along to the playback, but this worked so well for whoever set this up.

And then…in the newly-super-sized Band Names round, where there was already a running gag about a bunch of monkeys in a factory typing up ‘Chumbawumba’ (which, for the record, is one of many fake origins for the band’s name, as Danbert Nobacon kept like 50 of them in circulation), Toyah managed to completely bungle a train of thought about JFK, thinking an oddhanded Mark joke has to do with the answer. It’s one of those embarrassing blunders that would have to go right up there with Jessica Garlick asking which of the ID Parade looks foreign, or Josie D’Arby legitimately thinking that ducks go moo.

Mark, with the golden response: “…d’you know those chimps that typed up Chumbawumba? You wouldn’t even have gotten that far, would you?”

And so, the rest of the show, we embarked on the visual of An Infinite Number of Toyahs typing up Chumbawumba somewhere in a factory. And while a passerby could see this as ‘hey, they spent all show making fun of her’, I mean…they did, but she’s got enough self-awareness to be at peace with her joke status. I mean, why else did she keep coming on, LITERALLY UP UNTIL MARK’S LAST SHOW? She knew that she’d get insulted, but she enjoyed the fun environment of the show. And it was most evident here, I think.

Such a fun bunch of runners in this one. May not have had the ingredients for the best show, but it certainly turned out a charmer.

Best Moment: after some more ‘An Infinite Number of Toyahs’ jokes, Toyah, reaching her near-breaking point, goes, to Mark and Phill, “I’m gonna come over there and fist you both in a minute…”
Mark, taking this the exact wrong way: “ME FIRST!”

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#47: S26E04
Host: Nick Grimshaw
Captains: Phill and Noel Fielding
Panelists: Joe Lycett, Fred Macpherson, Nancy Dell’olio, Conor Maynard
Special Guests: Pat Sharp, Mike Read, Tony Blackburn

Sometimes, when Buzzcocks tries a show-long gimmick, it doesn’t exact work…especially in the Guest Host era. David O’Doherty tried to bridge a runner that Shakira was supposed to host instead, but it could only stretch so thin. Stephen Mangan tried to make his episode the World Music Special, but the episode wasn’t strong enough to keep it up. Tim Westwood tried to implement the Wheel of JLS, but it didn’t work because Tim Westwood sucks [insert hutt-esque Big Narstie laugh here]

This one, the ‘Hey Mr. DJ’ special…definitely worked.

It helped that Nick Grimshaw was a strong, sharp, if slightly pedestrian, guest host pick. But also, the gimmick was that at any time, the panelists could call upon the help of legendary DJs Mike Read (who was a hero of a Mark Lamarr show in S12), Pat Sharp (who had become a running gag of his own during Series 24), and Tony Blackburn (who’d made his name as a legendary, fun presence on Buzzcocks after 3 appearances). They could aid in an opening round, join in on Intros (like Blackburn did with Joe Lycett), help out in ID Parade, or just…be along for the ride. It’s an intriguing idea, and it helps that all three are insanely good people AND good Buzzcocks presences.

So all it needed was a good episode to be based around. And…this was definitely one of those.

First of all, the team of Joe, Phill and Fred was a very fun, very goofy little team. Fred’s really funny on his own as well, and was a great intros presence. Joe Lycett is…Joe Lycett. Like, of course he’s gonna do funny shit. What else is he gonna do? His interactions with Tony were also wonderful and wholesome.

But…honestly, the only reason a lot of people remember this one is because of Nancy Dell’olio on Noel’s side. Someone who wasn’t especially aware of a lot of the jokes at her expense, being a professional TV personality, and…most of the show was just Noel, Conor and Phill just lambasting her. Nancy, not very familiar with the show obviously, eventually just said “I’m, uh, learning”. Which really just summed it all up.

Eventually it just turned into Noel and Nancy plotting to kidnap Dalmatians, adopt Conor, then Nancy wanted to take Nick out for dinner (Phill, giving my favorite line of the show, replied: “I can see it now: “FOUR HUNDRED HAPPY MEAL.””). It just got funnier and funnier, and I can only imagine that eventually Nancy cooled down about being the butt of everyone’s jokes. The eventual joke that she’s actually dating Tony Blackburn now felt earned, and…fit with this episode’s insane yet cordial mood.

But…just so many funny things happened this show. So many good DJ interactions. So many good moments for Phill and Noel. Even if Nick could have been slightly stronger as host, it was just a successful, very funny show in a murky era of Buzzcocks.

Best Moment: After Joe correctly guesses the first intro, of What Makes You Beautiful by 1D, as ‘Bollocks’, his whole panel ends up turning the playback into ‘Summer Nights’ from Grease. It’s as funny as it is wholesome.

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#46: S14E07
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill and Bill
Panelists: Dara O’Briain, Fatman Scoop, Gary Jules, Wes Butters

For those of you not from America, which has to be a great deal of you, I’m going to educate you on a type of reality show character called a ‘Rupert’.

A Rupert is a character that is big, brash, and has very simple principles, something like ‘do what’s right’ or ‘make eye-opening music’ or something like that. And…ultimately there’s nothing more to this character than just those simple principles. So when other characters bounce off of them, they really don’t have many cards to play with other than what we know of them. It’s also easy for anyone else to make fun of them, because they’re always really going to do the same thing.

There are contemporary examples, like Horst, the ‘I Killed a man with THIS thumb’ guy from Ratatouille, or Dr. Loomis in Halloween II, who gives the same speech seven times. But I call this a Rupert because of a character on Survivor, Rupert Boneham, who was a big, strong bearded guy from Indiana whose goals were to be big, loud and heroic the entire game. Ultimately, this did not amount to a win, but the audience sure loved him.

Fatman Scoop…is a Rupert. He’s probably a better Rupert than Rupert is. His schtick is that he’s a big, fat, black American rapper from Jersey. And that’s it. He’s like Pitbull if he didn’t have any self-awareness. He was placed on the show because he was making hits in the UK, and his agent thought it’d be a good idea. It…sort of was? I mean, he got exposure..?

But, Fatman Scoop did manage to take the game of Buzzcocks very seriously. Not unlike another American east-coaster, he was pointing out pragmatic flaws in the game, like angrily announcing that Bill and Gary’s intro sounded nothing like Dilemma by Nelly, or decreeing that the producers should just put Athelston back where he came from. Most flagrant of all, at the end of the show:
Mark: “So the final scores are, Phill, you got 9…”
Scoop: “What did they get?….WHAT DID DEY GET???
(Mark’s trying to hold it in)
Mark: “….We’ll find out after this break…”

Scoop’s thing is a lot of the times, he saw the show kind of literally, and didn’t see that some things didn’t need to be taken so seriously, especially in Intros and Next Lines. This…made it easier for people like Mark and Phill to screw with him. My favorite is Mark asking what to call him, Fatman or Scoop, and Scoop saying he doesn’t care.
Mark: “Alright, I’ll call you Jeremy.”
Scoop, as if he’s aping Mr. T: “NOOO!”
Phill, smirking: “Scoop. Kill him.”

And the rest of the show works just as well around him. Gary Jules is a very patient American guest, jokingly confused by Mark asking if they have anal sex in the states. Dara improved upon his too-forward first appearance, and balanced his team with Scoop very well. Bill and Gary’s intros round was great, as Mark kept trying to distract them with singing The Passenger. And…Athelston wound up in full Scottish garb, with a kilt and hat. Mark even admitted, “I’m gonna put you on my mantlepiece tonight”

But having Fatman Scoop and his slight naivety there…enhanced matters especially. It was a banner series for Buzzcocks, and this one was even stronger than anticipated.

Best Moment: Learning that ‘Combine Harvester’ by the Wurzels is actually Bill’s national anthem. As the playback comes in, he subconsciously stands and monotone-ly adds in the ‘ooh-arr ooh’arr’s. Then…literally the whole panel starts bobbing up and down to it.

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#45: S04E03
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Bill and Sean
Panelists: Keith Chegwin, Tom Robinson, Neil Hannon, Emmy-Kate Montrose

I’ve talked a bit on here about banner series for Buzzcocks. Series 14 is a legendary one, Series’ 5 and 6 are both fantastic, and Series 20 has some definite pull as well. But..upon a recent rewatch, it SHOCKED me how good Series 4 was. Like, there’s only one weak show in the bunch, episode 5, and even that one has Jah Wobble’s drum noises (“BUMANUMANUMANUMA SLAG!”). But…pretty much every show in this series is either really good or a direct result of an episode that was really good. It’s just good shit.

And this one is no different. The show stacked two NMTB veterans (Tom Robinson and Neil Hannon), and brought in an Atomic Kitten member and…Keith Chegwin. Who was having the time of his life. Really, everything sprung naturally from all of that.

I’ll say as a brief criticism that Neil Hannon didn’t say as much as he did last time. Perhaps this was because he was on a panel with Keith, who was saying so much and getting so much air that maybe he didn’t have any breathing room. I’m a fan of Neil’s music, and I’ll say that he had a more fun show when he was paired with Lauren Laverne in S1, but…he’s great in Intros here with Sean.

Really, what we need to talk about this one is Tom Robinson’s pirate fixation, which starts in the opener and stretches through the rest of the show, and Keith Chegwin’s competitiveness, nearly getting in a fight with Tom and Phill after they tried to riff his intro-guessing. Those two moments make up the bulk of the great moments in this.

Not only that, but Cheggers’ looseness led to some fun moments, like his wanking input during the opening round, and everyone reacting to…Keith Chegwin, famed presenter, talking about wanking. That may be why this works so well, this episode: you’ve seen Chegwin in one light, but seeing him joke about wanking and shouting at Tom Robinson completely eclipses the legend. It’s like seeing Richard Madeley joke about Judy giving him oral sex under the desk.

Still, the regulars, especially Sean, had a ton of fun with this one. And seeing as it was S4, it was all really strong and very funny.

Best Moment: Phill, summing it all up: “LET’S LEAVE…AND COME BACK. We turned up in the studio, there was some load of old wank about pirates, and then Cheggers started talking about walloping…what a night!”
To which Sean responds with “d’you call it walloping?”
Then, later, pre-intros, Sean goes “Phill…we’re gonna WALLOP you in this round…”

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#44: S20E04
Host: Simon Amstell
Captains: Phill and Bill
Panelists: Midge Ure, Russell Howard, Nick Hoult, Romeo Stodart

There’s a specific type of Never Mind the Buzzcocks episode that I’ve often enjoyed covering called an ‘Aftermath Episode’. Where a lot of the action of said episode revolves around the events of a previous one. For instance: S04E02, which didn’t make the countdown, is a fun episode because it’s just Mark bashing Chris Moyles for not enjoying himself the week before. S10E06 is great because Mark keeps having PTSD flashbacks to Pete Burns being there the week before. S22E06 is great because Simon’s trying to keep his job after Russell Brand was on amid controversy.

This one takes the cake. Because it follows one of the most iconic shows in Buzzcocks history, the Preston show…and it’s entirely trying to make sure that nobody else walks off.

This show does go back to my theory that Mark Lamarr could have done well with these 2006-era bookings, as he’d have fun with Midge Ure like he did a ton of times. Here, Midge is sort of drilled by Simon a lot, and it’s not exactly as cozy as his time batting away Mark slams. Solely because Simon’s a more intrusive host who makes it a point to call people out; Mark would at least wait until they played into his hand.

But yeah, Midge did enjoy himself enough that he’d repeatedly threaten to walk off. Simon keeps bringing up the fact that Bob Geldof gets all the credit, and the knighthood, for Live Aid, and Midge eventually just does a little finger gesture meaning ‘I will walk off in a second’. But he definitely settled in, somewhere around the point where he couldn’t get his own daughter’s band’s lines right.

Even aside from that, the air of chaos was present. Phill’s ID Parade was great, as it was very obviously #1, as she kept making herself known. Romeo completely missed his own next line, to which Simon responded “this happens at every show, but never so bad…”. Russell Howard was giving off some fun lines all night, and Nick Hoult was getting the most attention from Simon for being on Skins…which Simon himself co-wrote a show for.

But really, the triumph of this show was taking a Mark-era legend like Midge and making his style work with the new show. And for taking an episode like E3 and not completely divebombing afterwards. This is a pretty strong follow-up to a show that’s clearly a Top 10 on anyone’s list.

Best Moment: As Midge contemplates walking off, Phill: “You see this is the seat that Preston left, this is the seat that Lemmy left the show on, admittedly during the retakes. We’re just gonna have to call [Midge’s] the Ejector seat!”
Simon: “We should get some sort of a seatbelt…”

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#43: S16E09
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill and Bill
Panelists: Kenzie, Lucy Porter, Chinyere, DJ Spoony

i’d love to show that to someone without context, that above. Mark Lamarr just walking over and licking Lucy Porter’s face, then walking back like nothing’s happened.

Again, even near the end of his NMTB tenure, Mark could still give some good material. This licking, for instance, was in response to an anecdote from Lucy about a tramp licking her one time. So…naturally, Mark wouldn’t let that go at all over the next 30 minutes. Pretty much everyone else was harping on that, with even Bill singing to himself “that’s why the lady…smells of tramp…”

Now, repeatedly mentioning something embarrassing to Lucy Porter is easy. She’s a professional comedian, she takes it in stride and laughs it off all night. But what if you had something embarrassing onhand about someone a lot tougher. Say…someone from the Blazin’ Squad.

Yeah, then you’d have to hope it’s someone like Kenzie, who’ll literally buckle forward in laughter right when he knows something’s coming. And on this show, something was nearly always coming. From the running gags about the 9,000 members of the blazing squad, supplied by Mark (which, to be honest, he was cracking up right with Kenzie at), to the eventual realization that Kenzie’s dating Jodie Marsh. Which he’s very sensitive about. And which DJ Spoony was ABSOLUTELY AMAZED BY.

And…the joke eventually becomes about Jodie’s tendency to stick a thumb up her partner’s ass. Which…Kenzie doesn’t deny. And so, rest of the night, every Kenzie joke involved something being shoved up a rectum. Which…I mean, slightly better than his next time on (where he defended writing a song about, to quote Russell Howard, “doing anal in a truck”), but still hard to come back from.

Yet, to his credit, Kenzie was cracking up, at the risk of near pain, all night. At one point, you can hear him weakly mutter “please…leave me alone”. Which isn’t anything like Preston going ‘that’s out of order’. Like…he’s laughing so hard that if someone else gives him the mick, he might die. That is a new one.

Aside from that nonsense, this show was one of the last few appearances of Athelston, and for once he’s not the center of attention in this lineup, as one of the members appears to nod off in the middle of Mark’s intros. Plus, Mark agreed to give Kenzie a point every time he said it wasn’t Athelston.

This one’s so glorious because of the pile-up of running gags just hitting again and again, and for poor Kenzie being absolutely battered to the point of laughter exhaustion. I felt a little bad for the guy, but not from the brunt of the insults- no, I was worried he’d piss himself under the desk.

Just a really funny show, and possibly the last true knockout of the Mark era.

Best Moment: Phill and Chinyere are doing an intro for House of the Rising Sun for Kenzie. It’s…very clear that he doesn’t know it. So Mark just starts singing the lyrics along with it, passionately, further and further. At the point where he’s about to repeat the chorus, he just looks at the camera and goes “he doesn’t know…”. Such a great Mark moment.

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#42: S28E02
Host: Rhod Gilbert
Captains: Phill and Noel
Panelists: Seann Walsh, Stacey Solomon, Harry Koisser, Ella Eyre

Now, let’s get something absolutely straight here.

A lot of people…don’t like the Rhod Gilbert shows. They think the show was dying out, that there was no cohesion between Rhod and Noel, and production was trying too hard to make events happen rather than make a solid panel show. And I can see those criticisms, but like…there are a few episodes in this series that I laughed too damned hard at. Hell, I’ll mention that one that just missed the cut, Episode 7, featured the visual of Phill and Noel both doing Sarah Millican impressions while reading adult fiction. So much insanely funny stuff in these, even if Rhod’s method of game-running became tedious after a while.

Here…things were still new, fresh, and interesting. And you had onhand two people who’d definitely make things interesting: Seann Walsh, who’d yet to see a Buzzcocks show he didn’t make hysterical, and Stacey Solomon, who was projected to completely bungle the Intros round, as per usual. And also, you had loopy Harry Koisser from Peace playing a guitar from behind his back and doesn’t have a house. Shenanigans were bound to ensue.

Most importantly, this show would feature the first appearance of Rhod’s ball-bongos. Which would only get funnier as the series went on. Also, Seann Walsh’s school friend ended up as one of the options in ID Parade, which was wonderful. This one also introduced the innovation of giving the ID Parade guest a wireless lov mic so Rhod can talk to them afterwards, and in tonight’s case try to hire them both for contracting jobs. There was also a runner about the nonexistence of the concept of time, which is the most Seann Walsh thing ever, and there were just some great moments coming from all three regulars.

This show’s big moment may have been Stacey Solomon’s pathetic showing at Intros, realizing she’s bad at hearing songs, and then short-sighted…so literally Phill and Ella doing Waterloo Sunset to a bewildered Stacey was nearly excruciating, but also entertaining. Not since Tony Wright had someone been so consistently bad at Intros, and she was making a name for herself, not even getting a clue about the sunset and bringing up the movie IT, which at least played into Noel’s wardrobe.

Like with Tony, when she eventually did get an intro it was a momentous, hysterical occasion with much dancing. And also, Stacey’s generally a very fun panel presence despite being horrible at Intros. Phill doesn’t get too annoyed by it either.

A very solid, very eventful Rhod show, and…it’s not the last of those on this list. 

Screen Shot 2019-03-11 at 3.34.45 PMBest Moment: Noel running out in a dress with Pennywise on it. Rhod points out that the nose is in a very odd place, though:

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 6.02.50 PM.png#41: S02E08
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill and Sean
Panelists: Noddy Holder, Boy George, Jonathan Ross, Louise Wener

Coming off of one of the most sadistically engineered shows in NMTB, Episode 8 of Series 2 gave us a standard for every subsequent Christmas Show, literally just by starting with Noddy Holder going “IIIIIIIIT’S CHRIIIISTMAAAAAAAS!”

This was the show’s first attempt at a Christmas show, and they pulled out all the stops, getting two high-profile panelists in 80s icon Boy George and Christmas Legend Noddy Holder from Slade. Additionally, they had on Jonathan Ross for his first of like 12 appearances in the first 4 series.

Here, Ross is at his lawful best, as he doesn’t have a panel that he can entirely drown out. He does have some goofy moments, especially in Intros, where he has one given to him so many times that after 4 he just starts doing it WITH Phill and Louise (‘OOMBA OOMBA OOMBA OOMBA’). Also, let it be known that it’s Ross who uses the phrase ‘I IMPLORE YOU, I BESEECH YOU’ before Mark uses it on him during Never Rewind, this time to scare off an ID Parade member.

Hell, even BOY GEORGE is at his lawful best. He’s not making many gay jokes, Mark isn’t taking the mick that much, and he’s honestly the quietest he’s been on this show. True, he does have a few cheeky moments, like saying his religious denomination is the Church of the Poisoned Mind (Mark: “HE’S PLUGGING OLD RECORDS!”), and insinuating that he’s the only one who would know what a drummer is like in ID Parade (Sean: “Could you all just take off your trousers for George?”)

But…really, this one’s about Noddy. Because not only is he game with all the CHRIIIISTMAAAS jokes, but he just seems chuffed to be on. He’s joking with Mark about their outdated hairstyles, doing fun intros with Sean, making great jokes throughout, and even indulging the panel and making fun of Dave Hill’s hairstyle, doing a little sign of the cross (prompting Phill to go “Normally Noddy used to go ‘Iiit’s Christmas!’ But he looks around at Dave and goes ‘IIIIIIT’S CHRISTMAAAASSS!”)

With eight extra minutes, enough breathing room to keep ID Parade live, an incredibly silly Next Lines, and tons of joshing from Mark and Jonathan, this was a generally jovial, insanely successful CHRISTMAAAAS special, one that’d be insanely hard to outdo (and yet…two have)

Best Moment: Sean and Noddy’s first intro sounds a bit too much like The Good, The Bad and the Ugly


The next ten will be up soon. To preview this batch…expect two annoying teenagers, some hair wax, four from the Guest Host era, and two shows featuring Buzzcocks’ most prolific guest panelist.

The 60 Greatest Never Mind the Buzzcocks Episodes Ever (#s 60 to 51)

So…it’s come to this.

I had teased for a year and a half that this list was on the way, but due to work, school, and Whose Line, I never got to writing it. I actually drafted this list in July 2017, and most of that list has gone unedited, though I swapped out a few in this section of the list for ones I’d grown to love in a recent re-watch.

So…this isn’t the end-all, beat-all of ranks. I’m already gonna sadden one or two people by saying that there’s not going to be a huge Jonathan Ross presence on this list, nor is there going to be a huge Paul Foot presence. Both aren’t really my cup of tea.

I’ll also add this preface for any members of the Simon Amstell fandom who’ll be arguing that there boy doesn’t have enough episodes on this list: Mark Lamarr ran the show for 17 seasons. Simon ran it for four, and only two of those were wholly great. There’s going to be a TON of Lamarr shows on this list, and while there definitely will be some Amstell presence, the point is that Lamarr cared more about his presence in the music world to only pretend to be an asshole to many panelists. He spent an entire show pissing off Gail Porter, then like a year later they allegedly went shopping a few times. He probably bought her a couple nice wigs as well. If Simon pissed someone off on the show, he wouldn’t really show mercy in real life.

But that’s a rant for another day.

Anyway, here are 10 of my Top 60 Buzzcocks Episodes Ever. Every show that aired on television is fair game, from series 1 to 28 (so no Never Rewind). Let’s begin with a National Fucking Treasure….

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#60: S22E02
Host: Simon Amstell
Captains: Phill, Stephen Fry
Panelists: Matt Shultz, Josie Long, Dominic Cooper and Frankie Sandford

I’m going to add slightly to my Simon rant from earlier. Simon Amstell wasn’t the type of person who’d preside over the show with an iron fist. He’d rely on Bill and Phill to keep order as well, especially after Series 21 where he’d get more tired of the show and focus on belittling specific people like Antony Costa and Lee Ryan.

To that end, Series 22 may be one of the weakest, because Simon is deferring even more to the captains so that the Guest Captain can do more heavy lifting. There’s not a ton of Simon interference in this show, even though he does tailor this one, rightfully so, to Stephen Fry by adding in many QI-esque elements, like a buzzer and many existential conversations.

But what makes this one work is how game Stephen Fry is to the proceedings. This is most evident in the Intros round, where he’s paired with a very crossfaded Matt Shultz from Cage the Elephant, and goes about a pair of particularly messy intros while still keeping the spirit of the show alive. And I say this was surprising because you’d think someone like Stephen Fry would see himself as bigger than NMTB, but he knows it’s just a laugh. He even throws in a few very outlandish comments that wouldn’t fly today, and a blissfully-out-of-place jab at the Hippity Hoppity Brigade.

Additionally, Stephen’s presence manages to bring out the best in Phill Jupitus, who’d been seeming to be tiring of the program himself the series before. Phill is even more giggly and joking around than usual, solely because he has his usual QI dartboard in the room, like shouting out an I’m Too Sexy reference (without Fairbrass even being in the room) and raising a pipe in the air.

There are occasional lulls, and the moments with Frankie forgetting which movie she saw Dominic Cooper in are amusing but slightly weak, but this is definitely the height of a noticeably weak series of Buzzcocks. And it couldn’t have been done without Stephen Fry.

Best Moment: Stephen using the phrase ‘recto-vaginal insertion’ during a conversation about a pretzel, to which Simon responds “I thought you were gonna bring this show up to a STANDARD…”

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#59: S13E02
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill, Bill Bailey
Panelists: HarMar Superstar, Raul Malo, Liz McClarnon, Mark Richardson

An odd pick, probably, but this is one of those shows where the main three were just on their game all night. Series 13 was also the exact time where Bill Bailey really clicked as a team captain, after two series of just getting abuse from Mark over his usual ‘weasels’ type humor.

Literally from round one, everybody was just on. Phill making Mavericks jokes to Raul. Mark making Atomic Kitten jokes to Liz. Phill calling Ron Jeremy ‘HarMar’s dad’, and HarMar agreeing. And then once Bill was handed clips of David Cassidy, he absolutely took off, doing some of the single greatest riffing I’ve seen on the program. Mark even went to Raul’s seat, yelling “I WANT TO WATCH HIM FROM HERE!”

The panel woke up soon after that, with HarMar being insanely game in intros, Mark Richardson completely forgetting a song from a band he toured with for a prolonged period of time, and Mark pulling out a crystal ball and continuing to use it throughout the show. But around ID Parade, Phill pulled out an anecdote involving a gay man calling him ‘Queen of the Bears’, and for some reason the show kept hitting on that for the rest of its duration.

This was just a show that benefitted from everyone being on, and just had this goofy undercurrent for its entire runtime. There are so many shots of just Raul Malo trying not to laugh and/or dying laughing, even after he screws up his own lyrics (“the senoritas…I can pay-” “SO THAT’S WHAT IT’S ABOUT!”) This one’s just one of my sentimental favorites, and it’s a dynamic that the show would build on while heading towards its unstoppable Series 14.

Best Moment:
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Bill: “…there’s been a bit of a communication cock-up, he said ‘I’ll have a large black tea on the plane…”

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#58: S11E07
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill & Bill
Panelists: Sebastian Bach, Dave Fulton, Neil Innes, Emma B.

Sometimes a show can be elevated by a single panel. And with no offense meant towards Emma B and Unofficial 7th Python Neil Innes hanging with Phill…the combo of Bill Bailey, Dave Fulton and Sebastian Bach was enough to crack me up this whole episode. These three need their own Three Stooges-esque movie, STAT!

It was the greatest combination: you had Bill trying to move the show along though still loving odd jokes, you had Dave as the most dry and reality based of the three, and you had wild and wacky Sebastian yelling and screaming on top of the desk and having the most fun of anyone.

Literally, this team’s stuff was gold all night: any image of the three head-banging with their hair flying everywhere (Mark: “people at home writing ‘oooh, conditioner…’), the moment where Bill puts some of Sebastian’s hair on his head to try and remember what hair feels like, most of their Intros round, a running gag about each of them as the Three Wise Men, Sebastian missing his own lyrics in Next Lines, and pretty much all of Bill and Sebastian’s Panama intro, where Sebastian tried to give it to Dave by using the clue ‘IMELDA MARCOS’

Even better, the panel’s insanity grated on Mark as the show went on, culminating in Mark promising Phill’s team to not end Next Lines until they’ve won.

I’ll say that the intensity of this panel will be matched by another one, on that exact side, later in the countdown, but these three elevated an already-great show.

Best Moment: Sebastian confusing the Philippines with Panama
Dave: “Once again the geography question has reared its ugly head and stumped the American.”

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#57: S12E07
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill & Bill
Panelists: Rich Hall, Christian O’Connell, Nick Bracegirdle and Guy McKnight

I originally had another episode in this slot, ironically another Rich Hall show, this one featuring Dave Hill from Slade…but at the very last second, I swapped in this one. Because slowly it’s become one of my most underrated favorites of the series. It’s also just a piece of evidence that putting Rich Hall on your panel makes everything a little funnier (“You’re time starts…NOW!” “The end is near!” “NO!”)

Really, all the elements are here for a good show: a sharp panel, with Christian O’Connell and Rich Hall giving funny stuff; Rich giving one of my favorite ID Parade quotes ever with “#4 looks like an Elvis Impersonator…had Elvis lived”; pretty much the entire round on the Deep Purple video, cutting to a bored looking audience (Rich: “there’s a kid on the right. That’s their manager!”); and even a mid-Intros argument where Nick swears he gave an answer before Christian did (to which Mark replies “not in the finished show you didn’t!”)

But the centerpiece of this show is one of the most successful setups and payoffs in Buzzcocks history: having Mark needle Guy McKnight the entire show for not talking and only speaking when Phill nudges him…and then having Guy correct his Next Line of his own song, and revealing that the real lyric is “I want to fuck your mother”. Not even Anton Chekhov could have written a payoff quite like that. Even Rich used that phrase to try and get out of Next Line later on.

It’s not one that a lot of people remember, but it’s a solid, wholly hysterical show that has some really funny moments at its core.

Best Moment: Top of the show, Mark asks Guy to say hello to his mother at home, prompting a half-hearted “…Barbara…”. Then, post ‘I want to fuck your mother’-gate, Phill, stifling laughter, looks at the camera and goes “HELLO, BARBARA!”

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#56: S25E07
Host: James Blunt
Captains: Phill & Noel Fielding
Panelists: Sarah Millican, Matthew Crosby, Sean Paul, Harry Judd

A few times during the Guest Host era, the booking people managed to surprise me, by rolling out a personality I was ready to hate and making them insanely likable and thick-skinned, and pulling off a really good show. James Blunt is definitely one of two instances of this phenomena. I’m not a huge fan of his music, but he certainly ran a very tight show, and was capable of making jokes…and BEING the joke occasionally as well.

First of all…whoever decided to have Sean Paul and Sarah Millican on the same team deserves a gold star, as even Noel said “I’m gonna be translating for these two tonight”. Both led to some nice moments, as Sarah had her usual like 20 good lines, and Sean had a great runner in Next Lines where he kept parroting back the correct pronunciations and wordage of his own stuff (and Noel, again during this era, was owning it: “That’s like the football scores…’East Fife, 4, Dem Shoogy Shoogy, 3…”)

James had great autocue reads all night, even though he was still the butt of many jokes from the rest of his panel. Plus, after a while they got more specific, pertaining to his history of military service (“have you ever done it in a tank?”) to his history with sleeping with, allegedly, “20% of the Pussycat Dolls”. Noel and Phill did not let James let that one go for the rest of the night.

In a word, this show was chaotic, and a lot could go wildly wrong at any time, but it was still contained in a way that felt natural. And James Blunt kept a smile on the entire time, even while being lambasted by Noel, who was on fire all night. Really couldn’t have asked for more.

Best Moment: After James ushers an ID Parade of soldier’s wives offstage, saying they were for his dressing room later
Sarah: “Will you be sorting one of them out? Just 20% of that lot?”
Phill: “I looked in his eyes then, and d’you know what I saw? ‘TONIGHT…40%!”

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#55- S08E05
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill & Sean Hughes
Panelists: Dane Bowers, Glenn Tilbrook, Darius Danesh, Vic Henley

…speaking of universally-despised singers with really thick skin…

The timing of this one was impeccable. This one aired right as the Popstars bubble was just beginning to pop, and a few shows after Mark had done a Darius impression in the middle of the show (and he’d do it again in this show). The Darius jokes were happening anyway, and I’m honestly surprised he agreed to come on, and be honest about leaving Popstars.

…And to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure who gave him more shit about hit throughout the night: Sean or Mark?

Just from that screencap alone…Sean wasn’t gonna do Intros with guy and NOT make fun of him. It’s kind of a law, you HAVE to. Here’s Darius trying to do the intro, and Sean’s doing the full on Darius snapping and wailing, to which Darius said “THAT’S IT!” (and Sean replied “I’M 35!”). And that was most of the show: yes, a quiz is trying to be played lawfully, but you can’t have Darius on and NOT take the mick. And again, he was really kind about the whole thing, and didn’t seem to take the insults too hard, even Sean’s very last one (see below).

Weirdest thing is…the rest of the panel was just really strong. Phill had Dane Bowers and Glenn Tilbrook to work with, and they’re pros at this show. Sean also had Vic Henley, who…always seems to end up on this show whenever there’s a pop icon that needs to be made fun of (see much later on in the countdown). And Darius was very lawful in playing the game, even as he was dodging insults from all corners.

I’ll note this pretty quickly: first time I watched this show I didn’t get it. I’m from New York, I didn’t really get the Popstars appeal. And then I understood what happened, saw the original clip, saw everything in context…and then all the slams were even funnier, and it was even funnier that he was game. And even if this isn’t as high as some other people would put it, I still do respect what this show did, and how Darius took it. A certain member of Blue would take inspiration from that later down the line.

Best Moment: Next lines: “I’m walking away from all the troubles in my life.”
Darius: “…I’m walking away…”
Sean, in the most mocking voice possible: “…from POPSTARS!”

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#54: S04E06
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill & Sean
Panelists: Arthur Smith, Mel Giedroyc, Mark Chadwick, Jimmy Constable

Like Jonathan Ross, one of the great early panelists in NMTB’s history that only managed to make one appearance on the episodes list was Arthur Smith? Why? I dunno, both his episode with Martin Fry and his episode with Dave Mustaine were…good, but not list-worthy. This one, where he was just finding his footing as a panelist and getting the hang of the game, while also dealing with Jimmy Constable.

Ironically, in an entry right after a show where Sean Hughes mercilessly attacks someone, here Arthur spent most of the show mercilessly attacking Sean, and it made the show even more cohesive and funny. Literally everyone possible was ‘better looking than Sean’, even Sarah Brightman. And Sean was able to take it, because Arthur’s too funny to let go.

And then Intros happened. And it got even better. Firstly because Mel Giedroyc was actually really loose and fun as Phill’s intro partner, which you really wouldn’t think if you’ve seen her play off of Sue Perkins, but then…Jimmy and Sean insisted on using a comb to make the intro to Stand by Me authentic. And an entire argument erupted about whether that comb noise was actually in the song. Arthur got more jokes in, Jimmy got frustrated, Mel and Phill got to do another intro essentially, and everything just went into bedlam because of a damned comb from Mark’s pocket.

And the thing is, the looseness of the comb incident carried through the rest of the show, even after a quieter first half, ugly jokes notwithstanding. Mark ended up calling Arthur out over some noises in Next Lines, proving that even the best can be out done by Lamarr. And it all just ended in a really fun mood, which is nice.

I’m not saying that Arthur carried this show, but if it wasn’t for his grumpiness and looseness, we’d be in a lot of trouble.

Best Moment: Arthur, post-combgate: “The point is, Mark, they got it right…it’s just you being horrible because Sean’s upset that everyone now realizes he’s ugly.”

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#53: S19E05
Host: Simon Amstell
Captains: Phill & Bill
Panelists: John Barrowman, Robin Ince, Daniel Bedingfield, Kelli Young

The Simon Amstell era of Buzzcocks got off to a rocky start, with two ‘good but not great’ shows, a fun but wild show (sure to be documented later), and one of the most soul-crushing shows in Buzzcocks history, featuring Amy Winehouse’s drunken last stand. What the show needed was not only a pick-me-up, but a sign that the show could get back to the heights of series 14 and 16.

Well, with the help of one of the most charismatic guests in Buzzcocks history, they did just that.

Look, man…you put John Barrowman in anything and it just saves the morale instantly. Put him in Doctor Who, in The Flash, in…a fucking SyFy original shark movie. I don’t care. He saves anything, because he’s always giving 100%, and he’s always having a fantastic time. So…Buzzcocks must have been easy for him. He’s got Daniel Bedingfield to look at and Simon Amstell to flirt with. What more could he want??

Literally from moment one, when both Simon and John got into a discussion on the Sugababes’ privates, we knew exactly what we were in for (to quote Phill, “There’s nothing quite like the riveting TV stylings of two homosexuals discussing fannies, is there??”). Simon made it clear that Barrowman would be his primary target, even if on the other side of the stage you had Daniel Bedingfield bouncing off the wall after ingesting too many chocolates (at least according to Phill years later). Though, at the very least, a runner about Bedingfield recording an album while naked certainly helped.

The Simon-John stuff, including a full on gay-off (“I haven’t even told my mum yet…”), got to the point where even Robin Ince, having a banner night himself, got frustrated at the amount of gayness going on across from him, culminating in a rant that included the line  “I DON’T EVEN THINK YOU *ARE* GAY, BARROWMAN!”. Which, to his credit, Barrowman found amusing as all hell.

Chaos aside, it was a tight show, one of the tighter ones of Simon’s first year, though he did placate Phill by having the audience root for Bill’s team rather than his (“Fuck ’em. No.”) But with the panel strength, the amount of jokes being fired from all cylinders, and the strength of John Barrowman (again, culminating in Simon’s bitter stinger of “…Gays…they take our MEN…”), it finally felt like Buzzcocks would be alright with Simon at the helm.

Best Moment: Simon gives Barrowman a simple Sound of Music next line…which he responds with a vulgar version of the line (“High on a hill lived a great big dildo, [gargling noises]”), so…they have to end the show on THAT note.
Simon: “…Never again. Strictly straights and lesbians from now on…They’re no bother…”

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#52: S05E07
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill & Sean
Panelists: Bill Bailey, Howard Jones, Tony Wright, Grant Nicholas

After the mild success of the Never Rewind video, the studio decided to…NOT give them another tape to do, but instead give the crew a 45-minute special during series 5, right when things were getting really good for the show. They seemed to treat it like it was going on tape as well, with two seasoned NMTB regulars (Tony Wright and Bill Bailey), and two people with varying levels of music credits (Howard Jones and Grant Nicholas).

It…quite obviously worked. With 15 extra minutes, there was enough breathing room to see a lot more of Mark throwing Klingon insults at Bill, Tony completely struggling in Intros, Howard Jones not knowing any of his songs, and a new, super sized Album Covers round, which was a fun failure that led to some very funny physical moments (and Mark going “I know you want the point, but it’d be fun to pass it to Tony, wouldn’t it?”)

However, arguably BECAUSE of the extra time, these moments were able to play bigger than before. Tony’s eventual triumph in Intros has more room to be a full on explosion of the panel, with a rousing ‘the final countdown’ heard all ’round. Bill and Mark’s sparring has enough to last the whole show. And the show’s big kicker, Mark being a contestant in an ID Parade for fellow 50s throwbacks The Jets, with literally everyone pissing him off by picking him.

It was, if anything, a supersized triumph of everything the show had done to that point. It was also essentially Bill’s audition to be Sean’s replacement down the line, as his Intros with Sean were pretty great (including a really good Bruce Springsteen/Sweetums impression). Why there weren’t more 45-minute shows I have no idea (though the S19 Christmas Show would get 5 or so extra minutes), but this was definitely the right time to have one.

Best Moment: Immediately following his ID Parade appearance, Mark announces “Phill’s team has 5 points, Sean’s team has 3. They would have had 5, but they were BEIN’ SILLY!”

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#51: S14E10
Host: Mark Lamarr
Captains: Phill & Bill
Panelists: Rich Hall, Amy Winehouse, Fearne Cotton, Mike Peters

Sadly, both entries featuring Rich Hall wound up down here, so this is his last appearance on the countdown…which is very sad. The guy is an undisputed comedic genius, and someone who never really got his due as a mainstream comedy writer. Thankfully, he’s been on basically every panel show in the UK and has made himself known as a bizarre, grumpy humorist. Which helps.

I don’t think they would have known in 2004, but pairing Rich with Amy Winehouse was…odd. True, Amy is very sober here, and very giggly, but…you don’t usually think of a team up between the girl who sang ‘Rehab’ and the guy who did the David Byrne’s Fashion Report bit on SNL. Having them on a team with Phill was a nice mood, as all three were making great comedy decisions all night, with no offense meant toward Fearne Cotton and Mike Peters.

Literally the first round, Phill’s team had a whole ‘fill in the blank’ round about a clip from David Bowie’s China Girl video where David does something to scare his love interest into spitting a straw out of her mouth. It just turned into the weirdest, wackiest quick-fire improv round I’ve seen (and I’ve covered Whose Line), with so many great answers, ranging from bizarre (Bill: ‘David, there’s no horse in horseradish!’ “WHAT?”) to probable (Phill: “David? Behind you, Iggy Pop!”) to…literal (Rich: “SPIT OUT THE STRAW!”)

Then, in Intros (with Phill and Amy making a nice pair), the unthinkable happens: Rich messes up an answer, saying ‘Blue Skies’ instead of ‘Mr. Blue Sky’…and gives Mark shit for not giving him the point. This goes on for…the REST OF THE SHOW. The funny part is, it’s half-played up, but I do legitimately think Rich was miffed about not getting credited for it. Literally, Rich is just adding ‘Mr’ to things just to spite Mark (“Yeah, it’s MISTER FREE BIRD!”)

Yes, this is a case where Rich carries the force of comedy on his back, but unlike the Guy McKnight show, here he’s got a panel who’s capable of supplanting him. Amy is capable of pushing back and making jokes herself, even at her own religious upbringing (to which he later adds “Amy, you’re jewish, haggle with him”). Plus, Fearne Cotton was a nice unsung hero for this era of the show, in that she was never the comedic focus of a panel, but she always had funny stuff here and there (and a bigger example of this is much later on).

Plus, so many nice runners. The ‘Bowie banged Iggy Pop’ joke goes on almost all night, there’s a nice recurring gag with Rich about heroin users, and Amy and Rich have gags go on until the end. It’s just a very concise show that doesn’t let up with callback gags. And again, it’s a Series 14 show, which means the fact that it’s on here without utilizing Athelston is…surprising but welcome.

Best Moment:  post-Mister-gate
Mark: “Rich…they HAVE quiz shows in America, right? This isn’t a new thing for you?”
Rich: “Yeah, but on those we get a fuckin’ car…”


Expect the next ten of these to go up…hopefully soon. If I can tease anything, I’ll say that a Buzzcocks hero appears twice, Athelston appears once, and that bloke I talked about at the top of the post gets his entry in.

Every Never Mind the Buzzcocks Guest Host, Ranked (Part Three)

Alright Folks…now for the real countdown.

Out of all 59 guest hosts, the ones in this post are, in my humble opinion, the 20 best. There was something about the way they hosted that captivated me, entertained me, impressed me, and made me laugh like hell. I’m gonna note here that this may not be everyone’s opinion, that I may have ranked some people too high, or too low. But this is my list, and I think I did a pretty good job feeling out where everyone belonged.

Right. Onto #20, a show I was outwardly fearing..

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#20- James Blunt (Series 25 Episode 8)

Talk about a guy who knows exactly who he is.

What I like about James Blunt is that he’s probably heard every ‘James Blunt sucks’ joke there is, and still manages to be funny, and an amazing sport. When it came time for him to host Buzzcocks, after a fantastic appearance on the Terry Wogan show, he was prepared, and he went at it with high energy and some nice, if Tokvig-esque whip-fast, reads.

I do have to say that the majority of the show was the panel screwing in him, not just on his status as a punchline, but as it came out that he’d had relations with, and I quote ‘20% of the Pussycat Dolls’. That joke alone gave the panel, including Sarah Millican and Matthew Crosby, enough fuel for the rest of the night. Even better, James was a fantastic sport, never being afraid to make fun of himself. His reads would occasionally slip, and sometimes his quick presenting would impede with jokes, but he had a fantastic night, and proved that within the punchline was a legitimately funny performer.


#19- David Tennant (Series 23 Episode 12)

In 2009, just as David Tennant was wrapping up his beloved run as a certain timelord, he agreed to do a run on some panel shows, to give back, and have one last Who-related run in the spotlight. His show on QI was wonderful, but for Buzzcocks, he decided to do something special. He made the whole show a DOCTOR WHO SPECIAL, rolling out two of his Who compadres, Catherine Tate and Bernard Cribbins, and two celebrity Who fans, Jo Whiley and Jamie Cullum, and peppered the entire show with Ood, Cybermen, Daleks, and a giant TARDIS sitting outside the range of the panel. To say it was Buzzcocks’ most ambitious themed show was an understatement, but it’s also one of the most rewarding, if you’re a fan of Who, and if you’re a fan of NMTB.

David was sure to let his personality shine through, by revealing that he’s an unabashed Coldplay fan, and having a running gag angrily shouting the name of a certain fellow Who-verse star. He was also great at the ‘hosting’ portion of the show. Like Blunt, after a while he knew when to let the panel snipe amongst themselves, especially considering Tate’s mental breakdown…and the fact that Bernard Cribbins became the show’s secret weapon. Even if David’s off-the-cuff abilities were sort of down, he still made sure everyone enjoyed themselves, and oh boy did they…

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#18 – Lorraine Kelly (Series 25 Episode 3)

Fresh off the rebranding of Series 25, and two forgettable, unnerving shows, Lorraine Kelly brought us a breath of life from a series that many thought was about to go south. Kelly, contrasting from her squeaky-clean morning show persona, introduced a swear box, spanking paddle, and halfway through the show waxed Phill’s legs. So in terms of morning show presenters, Lorraine Kelly was willing to bend over backwards to put them all in the dust.

It helped that, as a presenter, she didn’t have a problem hosting the show, or keeping the show running smoothly, but she was also responsible for being really funny, and leading to some ‘how the hell is that coming out of Lorraine Kelly’s mouth’ moments. She had this joking way of flirting with some of the contestants, which backfired in a way when her bra sort of exploded during a take, leading the entire panel to improvise around her. She was collaborative, funny, and melded well with everyone on the panel, even if the occasional dip to the well of sexy humor may have distracted from her endeavor of hosting the show.

Still, her show was something of a classic, and her presence ramped up the show into one of the craziest recordings in Buzzcocks history (and half of it wasn’t even Tony Law’s fault.)

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#17 – Lee Mack (Series 24 Episode 8 & Series 26 Episode 5)

Like Jack Dee, Lee Mack’s another instance of a guy who was sensational on his first time out, and whose 2nd hosting gig pushed him down a few pegs, though the strength of his first outing has pushed him up to #17. I don’t think anybody’s been more on top of his game than Lee on the Series 24 show. Every second, the breath of the comedy gods was flowing through him, and he was giving some spectacular off-the-cuff material, in addition to keeping the show tight. He managed to go off on a tangent on the proper flight attendant uniform, Andrew Stone’s proclamation is that a triple threat is someone who can sing, dance, act, and is coming for you, and his former roommate Noel Fielding.

Additionally, his off the cuff skills led to one of my favorite moments of this era, the entire ‘BATMAAAAN’ Intros round, with Lee commanding the audience to join in, and eventually buckling at the one renegade audience member who does it a third time. Lee was able to work that stage to the point where he could have hosted the show full-time.

However…his second show was sloppily hosted, sloppily structured by the producers, and just a weak effort compared to his last show. Lee spent an entire 3-minute bit completely mis-doing a teleprompter read, and while it was funny and well reacted-to, it was still hard to see from a guy who did it all so well the last time. It was, frankly, a disappointing show, but it didn’t come close to taking away from how strong Lee Mack could be when left to his own devices. As a Buzzcocks host, he was dominant, fast, and insanely likable, in good times and bad.

Moving onto another fellow who’s worked with David Mitchell…


#16- Robert Webb (Series 24 Episode 11)

It’s great- when I saw Rob Webb was hosting, I thought ‘yeah, he’ll be alright’. I never thought he’d be THIS GOOD. Like, I was floored with how active he was in the show, and with the contestants, as he was always, in my opinion, the more passive member of Mitchell and Webb.

It helped that Webb was given the comedy goldmine of having Chris Packham on the show, and while Chris was an amazing sport, and a great guy to have on the show…the amount of animal-knobbing jokes beckoned, and Rob was there to help, as well as screw with Cee-Lo Green and Example. He was also dynamite in terms of material, giving some great reads off the prompter, and giving the entire room a belly-laugh after a Sinitta joke.

I’m impressed because I wasn’t expecting him to come out this strong, and he ends up completely ruling the show, and giving one of the strongest efforts from a branded comedian the show’s seen. Even Chris Packham would agree.

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#15- Ricky Wilson (Series 18 Episode 3)

In 2006, the Kaiser Chiefs were the biggest rock band in London, and Ricky Wilson was one of the best young guest panelists that Never Mind the Buzzcocks had to offer. Hosting the show was something of a foregone conclusion, but, as a lot of musicians jumping from guest to host has shown on this list, it doesn’t always go well. Luckily for Ricky Wilson, he managed to host one of the single greatest episodes to not be hosted by Mark Lamarr. And I don’t just say that lightly.

Ricky Wilson was in a fantastic mood that night, not only riding high off the Chiefs’ success, but because he was really jazzed to be hosting the show, and it SO SHOWED. There were several moments where he just flat out had conversations with people, like Colin Murray and Ryan Jarman, just shot the shit. He did eventually have a show to host, and while his reads weren’t PERFECT, he was definitely charismatic enough, and at the same time serious enough, to carry the show.

He was responsible for hosting while TWO classic runners popped up- Ryan Jarman claiming that he’d invented Live 8, and Phill’s entire team deciding to mail the show in and aim to end the show with 0 points. Ricky was stern on both accounts, screwing with Ryan, and playfully rolling his eyes at Phill, even as Phill BELTED OUT various Kaiser Chiefs songs (to which he added “you’ll soon run out of Kaiser Chiefs songs. We’ve only got one record….but we’re gonna DO another one…”)

Even better, Ricky was vulnerable, accidentally making a faux-pas about Stevie Wonder (‘yeah, sorry Stevie, if you’re watching…’), and still landing on his feet. He wasn’t perfect, but with the amount of fun he was having, and the amount of joy that was clearly present in the show, he didn’t need to be.

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#14- Richard Madeley (Series 26 Episode 8)

As good as morning-show presenter Lorraine Kelly was in the host’s chair, Richard Madeley was even better. Why? Because as dirty and vulnerable as Kelly was able to go…Richard Madeley went deeper, dirtier, and crazier, to the point where Phill summed it up by saying ‘I’m going to need counseling after this show’.

Richard’s strength was not only assembling the madness that was this show, featuring Seann Walsh and Andrew O’Neil, but contributing to it. He was great at talking back at the contestants, contributing to jokes, and just having a fun time with it all. He was also great at hosting, and had some great prepared jokes.

Now…where his hosting gig gains traction is his ability to defy expectations, by saying some of the filthiest, least-Madeley-esque things, most famously involving auto-fellatio by way of wheely-bin, but also involving his co-host Judy giving him head underneath the desk. The panel went into hysterics at how un-Madeley Madeley was being, and the fun continued solely because Madeley allowed himself to kick back and enjoy himself.

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#13- Terry Wogan (Series 24 Episode 4)

Terry Wogan is one of those gets that only happens every once in a blue moon. The guy is one of the most world-renowned presenters and TV personalities, singlehandedly engineering Children in Need and the Eurovision Song Contest, and he’s the kind of guy whose kind, yet intimidating, presence can light up a room. So having someone as HUGE and PROFESSIONAL as Terry Wogan host a least-common-denominator program like Buzzcocks is a risk. Here, thankfully, it paid off.

Terry took this grand, wonderful approach to everything, and while sometimes it didn’t pay off [his reads were often a bit too plummy], his general demeanor shone through the show, offhandedly saying to Rufus Hound ‘D’you know I had no idea when I met you…the depths of your depravity?’ After even more panel shenanigans, he just looked at the camera, and yelled ‘ENOUGH OF THIS…SOCIETY ENTERTAINMENT!’

Maybe it was the fact that Terry Wogan was being undermined by Rufus Hound talking about C3P0’s genitalia, or maybe it was just the way he said it, but I don’t think Phill ever laughed harder than he did immediately after that joke.

The marvel of Terry Wogan’s hosting appearance is that literally everything he did was funnier because of the concept of Terry Wogan doing it or saying it on a panel show. Terry’s offhanded wicked sense of humor shone through in numbers, elevating even the quietest of moments, and keeping the entire panel in a fantastic mood. Though you could tell he was a bit drained by the end, and though you could tell the insanity could overwhelm and confuse him, he responded like a true professional, and had a positively wonderful time of it.


#12- Josh Groban (Series 24 Episode 10)

Josh Groban is living proof that people can have two sides in show business. One side can be the gracious, melodic, operatic singer that gets tons of sales at Christmas. The other side can be one of the most charismatic, all-out-funny people that Buzzcocks has ever had on, and his hosting appearance mixed the best of both worlds.

The main indicator of this show’s success was the mood everyone on the panel was in, especially Michael Ball and KT Tunstall, all having nice, ‘Grobanated’ moments throughout the show. Plus, having Ball on hand as Groban, who’s a big fan of his, got to host was a nice touch.

Look, I don’t think anybody knew it in 1996, but Buzzcocks was MADE for Josh Groban. The way he can interact with the panel, the way he can crack jokes, the way he can have really nice musical moments…that’s what the show had been clamoring for since its inception. Josh was quick, concise, had great judgment, and knew how to bring the best out in everyone, especially Tinchy Stryder.

His piece de resistance was the ending, where he and Michael Ball got to sing ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. You could tell this was a childhood dream of his, and it came off as an incredibly sweet, and terrific music moment. The show wasn’t perfect, but Groban gave more charisma and enthusiasm to Buzzcocks than arguably any American ever has.

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#11- Warwick Davis (Series 27 Episode 10)

Another one of the well-planned Theme Shows, the Movies special, was hosted by the guy who’d been in so many hit movies without you even knowing it, as well as being an incredibly funny compadre to Ricky Gervais, the great Warwick Davis. I think a lot of people underestimate Warwick because of his size, when in reality he’s one of the nicest, and funniest, guys in showbiz, and it certainly showed in Buzzcocks.

Warwick did a very nice job of keeping the show together, and keeping the panel engaged, coming off as an incredibly strong proctor for a ton of big personalities, including Chris Ramsey, who Warwick even had a little pseudo-rivalry with throughout the show. He also was able to provide an exclusive, once-in-a-show-run experience, with a tiebreaker round and a bonus Willow stunt double of his in the ID Parade. So, really, instead of the producers tailoring the show to him, he basically did all the tailoring himself, and it really showed- he seemed like he was having a ball.

He was terrific off the cuff, knew when to be stern, and, more importantly, wasn’t afraid of short jokes. Plus, this was a show where the panel could have easily overtaken the host, especially with the ‘Squirrels Ate My Cake’ runner, and…it didn’t really happen. So Bravo to Warwick..

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#10- Kathy Burke (Series 26 Episode 1)

So…knowing how good Kathy Burke was on her Series 5 show, I was expecting something funny, but I wasn’t expecting her to roll out the best Series Premiere since the Mark era.

You could tell she was up to the challenge when early on, she accentuated a joke with a casual wink, and she got loads of applause for it…and then threatened to do that for every joke for the rest of the show. She was also so incredibly laid back, as per her character, that the show just had this raunchy, fun, spontaneous feel to it, like any moment there could be a fun, ridiculous moment. And with Mark Hoppus on the panel, who also shared Kathy’s off-the-cuff and dirty ideology, that’s what happened.

Most of Kathy’s material could have been cut from the same cloth as Mark Lamarr, even with an ‘I *SAY* ____’ joke in there. Kathy, luckily, was savage enough, and had this no-holds-barred attitude about her, that a great deal of the prompter jokes were sold instantly. But moreover, she was able to communicate with the contestants, especially Greg Rutherford, and be very off-the-cuff (even lampshading that Greg’s seat was supposed to be taken by Mo Farra).

Kathy Burke may not have, on paper, looked like the greatest NMTB host, but she fit SO WELL with the brand of dry, sick humor, and she hosted a hell of a show.

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#9- John Barrowman (Series 25 Episode 12)

Onto another host that seemed to infect the entire show with their brand of humor, only this one in a jollier, slightly gayer fashion.

John Barrowman’s another guy who was born for this show, being a natural performer and a guy who’s entertaining simply breathing. What makes his show, which had a few gay jokes, different from David Walliams’ is that Barrowman doesn’t use it as a gimmick. He kinda uses his musical theatre background more than he uses his gayness this show, though he does plant a smooch on both Jason Manford AND Phill Jupitus. He gave all his energy to making this not only a show to remember, but a Christmas show to remember, and all the hard work paid off.

The guy’s skills as a presenter impressed me, as his reads and jokes were spot on, and the way he collaborated with the panelists, especially both Jasons (Derulo and Manford). Plus, once he realized something pissed someone on the panel off, he decided to use it to his advantage in the most cheerily evil way possible, like Phill and his hatred of Mr. Blobby (Rhod would use this several times in S28 as well.) Honestly, you could see how much love he had for the show, and the spectacle of it.

Even in the last moments, he got everyone that was a part of the show, including the ID Parade guests, to join him center stage to sing Silent Night. John Barrowman wanted to make this the single most memorable Christmas show of the series…and he damn near succeeded, too, but there’s one that beats his…

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#8 – Bob Mortimer (Series 26 Episode 12)

Now let me explain myself.

I just said so many great things about Barrowman’s Christmas show, the spectacle, the moment, the everything. So why, pray tell, does Bob Mortimer’s show, which pulled out less stops and was less grand, rank higher? Just look at Bob’s face. Bob Mortimer is capable of making literally any program he’s on the most fun time anyone’s gonna have. He did this back in his first appearance on Buzzcocks in S1, and he did this in his Guest Captain bit…but without the use of mistletoe, musical numbers or theatrics, Bob Mortimer was able to create the most fun environment this series ever had (save for a fellow coming up in a few spots).

Bob’s bizarre humor took full hold during the show, allowing for some bizarre Christmas anecdotes and crackers. The guy had a rolodex full of old-school keyboard sound effects that he kept throwing in to crack people up, and some of his jokes, and his ID Parade names, did enough to keep people laughing for HOURS. Plus, as host, he was able to second-guess contestants, screw with them, and yell keyboard noises at them.

The patron saint of this round was the entire Next Lines round, because everybody was already really happy and giggly, but the joke answers people were giving were insanely inspired. Plus, Noel and Bob’s dynamic was wonderful, both as weird comics, and both would crack each other up throughout the night.

So while, in a perfect world, both shows would be even, the Bob show slightly has the edge for just being insanely fun and ridiculous without trying too hard to be.

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#7 – Peter Andre (Series 27 Episode 3)

He sings. He dances. He takes off his shirt. He hosts. He smiles. He trains. He toilets. He celebrities. Yet despite all that, heading towards Peter Andre’s episode, I was fearing a dud. Why? Because like James Blunt, in my head I figured that someone that’d become a punchline also had to be a not-great person as well.

Well, look. Peter Andre, like James Blunt, knows exactly who he is. And he’s able to make fun of himself, as well as take a joke about himself. Literally moment one of the show, he’s coming in with his entire camera crew from his reality show, trying to document his hosting gig from both angles. If he was actually a stuck-up prick, he wouldn’t make a big thing of it at the top of the show. Even as a b-rate singer, he knows how to entertain people.

Peter’s hosting skills were great, and he was able to appeal to everyone without coming off like he was pandering. However, you can sum up Peter’s hosting gig with one song…Insania. When the song played in in Intros, Peter just waited for it to stop…and then he became visibly frustrated…and then the entire panel started dancing to the song.

Even funnier was the full ‘Insania’ round, which started with a full two minutes of Abbott-and-Costello-esque prattling between Peter and Noel (“Who am I?” “PETER!” “YES.”) The humor in this is the fact that Peter Andre is SO INTO HOSTING THE SHOW, and the charisma is SO SHOWING…and yet Noel, and Ana Matronic are BREAKING HIM. And there are moments where he just winces to the camera, but he’s doing it for the show, and he’s doing it for the experience. The whole ‘who am I’ but went on for so long, but only because Peter committed to it. Heck, Peter even brought out Bubbla Ranks, his ‘Mysterious Girl’ collaborator, for ID Parade, and for some of Intros, which is a great use of using your hosting cred to sweeten the pot.

So no matter how much Peter Andre squirmed, winced, or rolled his eyes, you could tell how much he wanted this show to be success, and how much effort he put in to entertain everyone.

Peter, exasperated: “…who am I?”
Tony Law: “…one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, frankly…”

(ironically, we go from Peter Andre to the guy that completely obliterated him on Mock the Week…)


#6- Greg Davies (Series 25 Episode 6)

This show must have been a present sent from the Gods for Greg Davies. Not only did he have ‘H’ from Steps, not only did he have Frankie Boyle and Holly Walsh onhand, and not only did he have the offensively dumb Amy Childs in the building…but he had Tinchy Stryder, the guy basically half his height, on his show. The amount of comedic possibilities in that equation is endless, and damn if Greg didn’t milk it for all it was worth.

The thing that stands out is just how Greg absolutely MASTERED this show. He’s probably one of the most active hosts the show’s ever had, because every second of gameplay, he was collaborating with the panel, and making jokes with, and at, them. Plus, he engineered an entire runner around objects being small to him, and GIANT to Tinchy, which worked every goddamned time. Even when Greg and Tinchy had to go over to the ID Parade together, and you could see the insane height difference, it was still ridiculously funny.

Height jokes aside, Greg was insanely active in the game, and in most of the runners. When Frankie and Amy Childs were having their ‘vajazzling’ discussion, Greg absolutely had to keep it going. Greg was also great at fueling Frankie’s fire, having worked with him on MTW a few times. Additionally, the entire joke that Tinchy measures monetary amounts in ‘range rovers’ couldn’t have kept going without Greg needling Tinchy about it.

Greg was also naturally hysterical, both off the cuff and off the prompter, and was able to control the chaos of all the personalities by keeping the game running smoothly. And yet there are five spots ahead of Greg, which means that as top-to-bottom amazing Greg Davies was, there were five hosts that did better.


#5 – Dermot O’Leary (Series 23 Episode 10)

Dermot O’Leary is responsible for hosting the single most fun episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks of all time. It’s very rare that people leave without any animosity, or without even demented, snarky jokes being hurled at them, but this was honestly one of the safest, most peaceful environments for a NMTB episode, and you’d be lying if you say that’s not Dermot’s fault.

This was a long time coming for Dermot, who’d done one quiet appearance during the Mark era, and one personality-laden-yet-still-lower-key appearance during the Simon era. The guy started off the show with a group hug (featuring a Mariah Carey song that wouldn’t shut off properly), and interspersed the show with Peter Dickson excitedly announcing the names of the panelists (and some of the rounds), which played either post-punchline [‘PHILL JUPITUS!’] or at the behest of a contestant who wanted to geek out [‘RUSSELL TOVEY!’].

Dermot’s strength, probably learned in his time as a presenter, is he knew when to be passive, like when he allowed David O’Doherty and Noel to go on about fake panda facts, and when to be active, like when he willed JLS’ Aston Merrygold to do a backflip center stage. He also was loose enough to have a personality through his reads and jokes, and interacted with both panels, making sure everyone got screen-time and awesome moments.

By the end of the show, Michael Ball and Phill were giggling to each other, and everyone was in a fantastic mood. That’s not a ‘good show’ detriment- that’s the sign of an amazing host.


#4 – Martin Freeman (Series 23 Episode 8)

I think, out of everyone who hosted the show in this era, Martin Freeman’s career aged the best. I mean this because when he hosted, he was famous for being on The Office, and doing some minor stuff…and as of right now he’s starred in all three Hobbit movies, he’s part of the MCU, he’s been on Fargo, he’s hosted Saturday Night Live, and he’s best known for playing John Watson on Sherlock. Most of this career-defining stuff happened after this episode. So to say this show aged well, especially considering how well Freeman did, is an overstatement.

Martin’s been portrayed as this sort of composed, stick-up-his-ass type in everything he’s been in, so to see him cut loose and throw Lamarr-style insults at Dappy and Charlie Brooker was refreshing, as well as throwing in a few of his trademark eye-rolls. He was a fantastic proctor, capable of screwing with teams when they were unable to get an answer, or more likely just screwing with Dappy when he couldn’t get all of a Next Line. He also used his professional sort of persona to make everything he said come off as genuine, even if he was taking the mick.

The thing is, I would have ranked him highly had he just been a fantastic, Mark-esque host. But what brings him up to #4 is the way he handled a certain incident on the show, where Dappy made a crack at a rather overweight member of the ID Parade…which caused Phill, in jest, to walk off.

I compare this one to the Clarkson show because, unlike just giving Phill shit about it as he went offstage, Martin was able to stay genuine, and convince Dappy that he’d legitimately just insulted Phill Jupitus, all while joining Charlie in screwing with him. He just kept this persona of ‘oh no, how could someone do this’, when all the while Phill was probably just taking a piss break, laughing his ass off. Martin absolutely sold the event, and clearly defined the side the audience should take (read: against Dappy), while still sort of trying to keep the show going, and to entertain the crap out of everyone in the room that wasn’t Dappy.

A lesser host couldn’t have handled that incident like Martin Freeman did. He took what could have been a chaotic moment and absolutely owned it, making it look like Dappy was the real victim. And to be fair, the bloke kinda deserved it.

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#3- Russell Howard (Series 27 Episode 2)

I imagine there is a difference between ‘not liking Russell Howard’ and ‘not liking Russell Howard on Mock the Week’. Because honestly, I think the latter bit is where most of the backlash has come from. Russell’s a fantastic stand-up, and has built a career on being an incredible improviser and comedian, but his material on Mock the Week, especially in comparison to Hugh Dennis and Frankie Boyle, definitely is kind of lackluster. I think he’s gotten more love as a stand-up because he’s in a medium he’s more used to.

To that end, hosting Never Mind the Buzzcocks may have worked out better for Russell than 5 years of Mock the Week did. Because Russell may have been the closest resemblance to Mark Lamarr from anyone on this era, and Russell probably gave the greatest audition for a long-term tenure as host.

The second he began, it felt like he’d done this show a million times before. Obviously Good News and Stand-Up Central had primed him for this, as his prompter-reading and audience-reading skills were already on par with the best. Also, the guy wasn’t selfish. If he was gonna make jokes, he was gonna collaborate with the whole panel, which was one of his strengths on MTW.

His biggest moments came from screwing with the panelists, in particular, Stacey Solomon and Lethal Bizzle. But HOW he screwed with them is what sets him apart from the pack. With Stacey, he took her offhanded impression of a sea-lion and turned it into an entire David Attenborough special, where he talks about animals and Stacey just does the impressions of them (i.e. “HERE WE HAVE THE MIGHTY BEAR. STACEY?”) I’ve mentioned this roughly a billion times on this blog, but it made me laugh so hard that it’s worth mentioning over and over again. Plus, with Lethal, he screwed him over his use of the term DENCH, even bringing up specific tweets (including the one that ended in ‘Hashtag Fannys’). Still, with all this teasing, I don’t think anybody left the show legitimately hating him.

He didn’t have to do anything flashy, he just hosted the show, and had some really funny material at the expense of the panelists, and just in general. Russell Howard truly impressed me in that regard, and that’s why he gets to be #3.

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#2 – Richard Ayoade (Series 26 Episode 7)

Sometimes someone gives such a tonal jolt to the show that you can’t help but ignore them. This almost happened with Simon’s ‘Family Friendly’ episode, where he tried to veer the show back into safe humor (while still having Alexei Sayle and Jack Dee on the program), but it still fell short due to Simon’s cheeky-bastard sensibilities.

Richard Ayoade came on the show, and announced up front that there would be no jokes in this episode. Likewise, he delivered one of the funniest shows in recent memory, yet he still stayed true to his word. How? Well, Richard Ayoade can literally make anything funny given the right context, and the right deadpan.

In that regard, Ayoade was perfect to host the show. He never once broke out of his droll, deadpan character, and strung the entire show along to be factual, and interesting, rather than funny. Of course this was meant in semi-jest, but Ayoade made damn sure that he looked like he was serious, going so far as reading odd facts about musical genres throughout the show, and inciting theoretical discussion whenever possible. He made the show funny through anti-humor, through subverting the expectations of the audience and giving a completely different kind of humor than what the show is known for. And in an era when the show went more broad than sophisticated in terms of humor, this was welcome.

Richard’s crowning achievement was taking an offhanded comment by guest Ed Sheeran, spinning it, and spending the entire rest of the show berating him about it. It started off as innocently as Ed saying he passes out after sex, and Richard went further, turning the whole show on his head and completely embarrassing Ed Sheeran…even after he elaborated further and further. Like the Freeman show, a lesser host wouldn’t know how to react, but Richard just used his utter confusion and multiplied it, transferring it to the entire panel, and eventually the audience.

He was also quick on his feet, and able to improvise around a stumble without breaking character, and he hosted the show so swiftly and adeptly that it felt like he’d been trained in it.

Richard Ayoade, as Buzzcocks host, was a stone wall, in that nothing fazed him, nothing got past him, and he just built on himself and got stronger as the show went on.

So, after all that, you’ve probably done the math and figured out who #1 is. If you’ve read the blog, you shouldn’t be too shocked.

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#1- Frankie Boyle (Series 23 Episode 11 & Series 24 Episode 10)

To a lot of people, this would be a lot like saying Cape Feare’s the best episode of the Simpsons, or that Goldfinger’s the best James Bond movie. Like, yeah…but that’s WAY too obvious? Do something risky, do something unusual! And to be honest, I came close to putting Ayoade at #1…but I couldn’t. I couldn’t not put Frankie Boyle at 1st place.

Frankie Boyle is the single funniest guest host this era ever had. Yes, you say, but Greg Davies was really funny! How come Frankie gets the top spot and Greg doesn’t? Well…Frankie borrowed a bit of ‘unfazeable’ material from Richard Ayoade. In both of his hosting appearances, he had some moments where he could have cracked, where he could have made an easy comment, and he came back with something incredible.

For instance:
Carol Vorderman: “Are you on Facebook, Frankie?”
Frankie: “I am.”
Carol: “What’s your Facebook name?”
Frankie: “….Frankie Boyle?”
[The audience takes a moment to laugh at this.]
Frankie: “…to be honest, Carol, I’d heard you were smarter than this…”

or even:
Frankie: “Yeah, Dappy, now HE’s a muppet…”
Professor Green: “That wasn’t very nice..”
Frankie, IMMEDIATELY: “I’m not a very nice man…Glad I could clear that up for you.”
Michelle Williams: “That’s not true, I think you ARE a nice man.”
Frankie, IMMEDIATELY: “Well, watch this…”

This is the kind of dialogue comedy writers DREAM OF. Frankie’s just so amazing at just knowing the exact right shit to say, not even taking a moment of thinking of it. When Andy Parsons made a joke about him on ‘Scenes We’d Like to See’, Frankie was literally walking onto the stage JUST AS ANDY WAS LEAVING. HE ALREADY HAD THE JOKE THOUGHT UP. IT TOOK, LIKE 2 SECONDS.

With all of that said about Frankie, did he deliver, on BOTH his shows? Yes, he did indeed. His first show was great, as he was able to deliver phenomenal lines, some polished proctoring, and some really nice Carol Vorderman slams. You could tell he was a fan of the show, and a fan of music, and was pretty cheery to be honest, while giving his trademark amount of Michael Jackson jokes and AIDS slams.

His second show was the one that singlehandedly convinced me that I needed to do a watchdown for this show. Just from the way that Goldie spent the entire episode with his gold-plated teeth against the desk, laughing so hard, you could tell how outstanding that episode was. Frankie was able to screw with Professor Green, Goldie AND Michelle Williams throughout the show, to the point where I’m honestly surprised Michelle still liked him by the end. As dominant as he was in Show 1, he was even stronger in his second show, giving one of the funniest episodes I’ve ever seen, and never once breaking a sweat or not knowing what to say. And this episode had shit that could even render Richard Ayoade speechless, especially the ‘dotty bitch’ that showed up in ID Parade.

The best part of all this is that Frankie Boyle was able to comply with BBC standards, was still able to not really filter himself, and had a tremendous time both times. And he did so well that the producers asked him to fill in for Phill the very next series, which led to ANOTHER funny episode.

Simply put, Frankie Boyle crafted two of the funniest episodes of Buzzcocks of all time, and did so not only brutally, but professionally. To me, he is the greatest Never Mind the Buzzcocks Guest Host of all time, and if he had ended up hosting the show full-time, I would have collapsed in joy.

So, those are my Guest Host rankings. You may not agree with them, but I had a ton of fun writing this up. Next up, I’m probably gonna rank some of my favorite recurring panelists. Hopefully those lists will take a smidge less effort.

Ever Never Mind the Buzzcocks Guest Host, Ranked (Part Two)

When last we met, we counted down the bottom 19 Guest Hosts in Buzzcocks history, ranging from good-intending-but-badly-executed (like Alex James) to absolutely atrocious in every way (like Tim Westwood).

Today, we’ll tackle #s 40-21, the middle of the road section of the countdown. If you’d like guidelines for the ranking, check the previous post. We’re heading right into things here:

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#40- Sara Cox (Series 27 Episode 4)

We begin this stretch of the countdown with another radio/tv presenter who, despite some enthusiasm, couldn’t really distinguish herself from the rest of the pack. Sara Cox has always been a charismatic choice for Buzzcocks, giving a really smiley performance in Series 5, and graduating to give intros to Adam Ant in Series 28. So to say that she fit on Buzzcocks was an understatement. Her hosting gig wasn’t all that memorable, though it wasn’t really her fault as much as it fell on the shoulders of guest Iggy Azalea, whose antics and demeanor were the subject of lampoon and jokes from the entire panel. Sara couldn’t really compete with Phill and Noel for the Iggy jokes, so decided to just host a ship-shape show, which, to her credit, she did. Again, great personality, but by default she falls into the ‘anyone could have hosted this show’ category.

#39- Jeremy Clarkson (Series 18 Episode 5)

I tried to keep personal bias out of this one, as I’m not particularly fond of Mr. Clarkson, so I tried to put myself in the eyes of someone who, god forbid, does enjoy his work. Would a Top Gear fan, or Clarkson fan, have enjoyed Clarkson’s NMTB bit? Well…no, not really. While this was a very funny show, and while Clarkson was allowed to be himself and snipe at Antony Costa, you could tell there was a great dissonance between the material prepared for Clarkson and the mood Clarkson showed up in. It’s not always very obvious that Buzzcocks’ jokes are written by other people, but here more than anywhere else they just stood out, perhaps due to Clarkson’s plummy, shit-eating delivery of them.

But that’s honestly not the reason he’s this low. He’s also responsible for some generally murky editing around the last half of the show. To this day, for the life of me, I’m not sure if Phill walked off because of Clarkson, and if he really meant it. All I know is that once intros started, Phill wasn’t his jovial self, and was letting Antony Costa fly through the Intros. Then, mid-round, he got up and left, without any real reason given. He just left. And from the crack Clarkson had about a minute later, saying that Phill was already at a fish-and-chip shop, I’m not being given any reason to believe it WASN’T Clarkson’s doing. So I’m left with a hard-to-watch last half of an episode that was fun for some of the wrong reasons.

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 3.22.55 PM.png#38- Catherine Tate (Series 24 Episode 2)

After putting forth one of the single most baffling appearances on the show from someone not named Bill Oddie, Catherine Tate’s hosting gig was thought as an odd choice from me going into Series 24, but after the Mark Ronson show, I was hoping for anything that was slightly coherent. Surprisingly Catherine was the coherent one, playing off her ‘am I bovvered’ catchphrase, leading a relatively ship-shape show, and having a great deal of fun. But ironically the incoherency came from Noel Fielding’s team, dubbed ‘Team Fuzzy’, featuring a jet-lagged Tulisa from N-Dubz, and a perpetually glazed Howard Marks. So it’s equally ironic to say that I remember more about the antics of Team Fuzzy, especially with Phill screwing with Howard, than I remember about the host, the lady who confused the shit out of Bernard Cribbins the year before. Again, nothing too terrible, but when you’re drowned out by Howard Marks, you’ve got to do something better.

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#37- James Corden (Series 23 Episode 1)

I’m gonna start this writeup by saying that I don’t hate James Corden as much as everybody else does. Everybody in the UK’s probably sick of him, because he presented everything over there and wasn’t terribly funny, and Frankie Boyle wants him to kill himself. I…think he’s fine? I like The Late Late Show, I think Carpool Karaoke is a good concept, and I liked when he hosted the Tonys. His mindset is just having fun and making the best out of something dark, and I can totally respect that. Literally in the first seconds of the show, he brought up the elephant in the room, Simon Amstell, and said that this wasn’t gonna be another mean era of the show, which I thought was awfully nice.

The rest of the show Corden hosted…was okay. Not good, not bad. Okay. He didn’t do a great deal of envelope-pushing, but he didn’t need to. Obviously he knew how to read an autocue, and obviously he was good at interacting with the panel, but overall nothing really stood out on his show, save for Corden’s eternally jolly demeanor. It’s hard to believe Corden was the first guest host after the Amstell era, and while he didn’t start things with a bang, he at least gave an inoffensive, harmless entry into the canon.

Ironically, we move from the first ever guest host of the ‘era’ to the LAST ever guest host of the era, and someone who’s the exact opposite of safe and inoffensive.

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Well. Somebody gave Johnny some booze, didn’t they.

I’ve always been on the fence about Johnny Vegas’ character, because on one hand, he’s this loud, boorish, obnoxious character, but on the other hand, there’s something very childlike and innocent about him, and the latter bit has been winning out a lot on QI. I never particularly enjoyed him on Buzzcocks, though, as he’d always be rather loud, esoteric, and take away from the quiz too much.

The Christmas show he hosted was, uh…wild. Absolutely wild. Johnny was visibly drunk, he would go into digressions that I’m still unsure of whether or not they were intentional, and he was kind of compromised as a host, giving semi-intentionally bad prompter readings, and nearly screwing up the hole show by handing Phill’s team the entire envelope of Next Lines…and then taking another 5 minutes to sulk about it.

The reason why he’s not so much lower is that while he was disastrous on the show, there was still something truly entertaining about it that kept the whole thing from being a ‘Johnny’s drunk, this is really unwatchable’ kind of thing, like the Amy Winehouse show or the Bonnie Tyler show. He was having a great time, and he’d go on emotional tangents for the camera which I think were intentional, and made the whole thing entertaining, in addition to bizarre.  So obviously his episode was flawed, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it.

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#35- Tinie Tempah (Series 25 Episode 9)

In terms of rappers hosting the show, I think of someone who did pretty well, like Example, and someone who couldn’t break out of his funk, like Dizzee Rascal. I put Scunthorpe-obsessed Tinie Tempah somewhere in the middle. On one hand, you could see his personality there, and you could see he was trying to have fun, especially playing the Scunthorpe card, and plopping a giant bag of placenta on the desk, to the horror of the panelists. But on the other, some of his reads weren’t great, he took a passive approach to hosting, and didn’t have many cards to rely on in terms of material (hence the overreliance on Scunthorpe.) So while he was definitely enthusiastic, he fell short of lapping Example (who was on the panel that night), but the show could still be carried by the panel (and oh, what a weird show it was…)


#34- David Walliams (Series 23 Episode 9)

With the amount of prestige and acclaim David Walliams has gotten, and the fact that he’s generally well-liked by the public, I was kinda surprised how much of a let-down his show was. The main joke running through the show was how gay David was (even though we know now that he’s bisexual), and he was sort of playing this up throughout the show, even using world-renowned motion capture actor Andy Serkis for a cheap anal-sex joke. He also just essentially flirted with Gareth Malone and Basshunter the whole show. I mean, there was a lot of good energy stuff here, and I definitely think David’s a nice rudimental host, but a lot of his material hit the same notes for me, and couldn’t really be elevated above ‘okay.’

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#33- Elvis Presley (or Eamonn Holmes) (Series 27 Episode 6)

I’ve been going over in my head whether or not the Elvis thing was a show-long gimmick. I mean, I honestly think Eamonn just wanted to dress up like Elvis, didn’t have a ton of Elvis-shoehorning into the rest of the show, and this doesn’t really feel like the ‘Elvis’ show, to me. So it’s not a gimmick. Eamonn just wanted to dress up like Elvis, which he’s more than capable of doing.

Other than some rudimentary stuff, Eamonn didn’t really interact with too many of the panelists, and mostly stuck to his guns, which is why he’s down here, but I’d like to point out that his hosting skills were excellent (obviously, as all those years on GMTV trained him correctly). Additionally…the prompter jokes they gave Eamonn were some of the most savage, hysterical jokes in a while. Unlike the Clarkson show, it felt like Eamonn was perfectly game with the material, even if it included a fat joke at his expense, and a LETHAL Anthea Turner slam. He was insanely game with the script for the night, almost as if he helped write it. So while he wasn’t the perfect host, his skills in front of the prompter were top notch, and that’s what puts him above Walliams for me.

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#32- Alex Horne (and his Horne Section) (Series 26 Episode 9)

This booking I will give the producers some credit for. On one of the foremost music institutions in the UK, having Alex Horne and his entire jazz ensemble host the show was a fantastic choice. The Intros round playbacks had band renditions instead of play-ins, and the Next Lines round had the band do the prompt, and required the panelists to sing back the Next Lines, leading to an adorable, impressive moment from Paloma Faith.

The interludes didn’t always work- in the middle of a conversation about olympic gymnast Louis Smith, the band improvised a song about Louis in action, which, while a great idea in question, took away some much-needed quiz time. These digressions weren’t always great, but the band was a great innovation for the show.

Again, like the Catherine Tate show, I don’t remember a ton about Alex’s hosting, charismatic as it was, because the show was taken over by Team Abstract, featuring Paloma Faith and Tony Law, two of the most bonkers panelists the show’s ever had. Most of their antics made up the show, instead of Alex Horne’s hosting. So while Horne and his section made for a great show, his hosting skills took a backseat to some panel action, which, while not a bad thing, takes away from what could have been a higher ranking.

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#31- Michael Bolton (Series 27 Episode 8)

Sometimes an episode-long theme actually fits a host’s strengths, and this is no more evident than getting Michael Bolton, post-Lonely-Island-aided Boltonaissiance, to host the ‘Sexy Special’, complete with over-the-top mountain for Bolton to stand on, and Shane Filan to teach everybody how to stand sexily.

Look, Bolton’s strengths were obviously not in reading from a prompter, as some of his reads were kind of wooden and unnatural. Additionally, he’d get something wrong, like assigning a song to the ‘Kaiser Chefs’ (cue Seann Walsh going ‘WHAT’S THAT COMING OVER THE HILL, IT IS A BLENDER!’). So while he wasn’t the most mentally prepared for the show (maybe attributed to slight jet-lag), he still worked his charm when he could, and was still fully aware of his status as not only a sex symbol but a pop culture punchline. And yeah, he was capable of singing sexily anytime he wanted, leading to a great moment of, on Seann and Phill’s request, singing ‘IT’S NOOOOOT ANAL DAAAANGERR…”

So he was game, he was himself, but as a host he was lacking a bit. Still made for a great show, though.

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#30- Example (Series 26 Episode 2)

Directly in the middle of the countdown is an appearance from E.G., a guy who was a panelist a bunch of times, and always seemed to have a really good time. As host…yeah, he was pretty good. I don’t have a ton to say about him, as he kept the game going well, interacted with the panel well, and came off like he was happy to be there. Granted, he was tied to a ‘And the Love Kick Starts Again’ runner, between Gareth Malone and Wretch 32, which, by the umpteenth rendition, had Gareth literally banging his head on the desk in frustration.

Still, Example kept the main bulk of the humor to the panelists, and thank god- Rufus Hound, Wretch and Gareth made this one of the filthiest shows on record, thanks to a ton of jokes involving soldiers’ wives and pantomime horses. Example, to his credit, joined in on the fun in addition to keeping the game going.

So yeah: Example is pretty much the standard for guest hosting. A perfect example, if you will.

#29: Huey Morgan (Series 18 Episode 6)

Before the mug-smashing incident, and after the show where he came to set high off a number of narcotics, Huey, the smooth MC, hosted a show in Series 18, as a friend of Mark’s. Was he a good host? No. His reads weren’t great, he screwed up a bunch of his lines, and wasn’t THE greatest at keeping the game going. BUT…off the cuff, Huey was absolutely hysterical. In messing up a line, he kept giving uncensored takes of a joke about Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz, because he was really passionate on the subject. He also had a ton of jokes about himself being secretly gay, and even more about a New Jersey weatherman taking on England. The stuff he improvised, and the amount of fun he was HAVING as well as IMPARTING onto the panelists (especially Phill) more than made up for his lack of mechanics as a host.

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#28- Tim Minchin (Series 24 Episode 6)

Slightly disappointing seeing as Tim’s one of the more fun panelists and personalities of this middle-era of the show, but ultimately worth it being that it’s Tim bluddy Minchin hosting Buzzcocks. I like the fact that he was able to work off of pretty much everyone on the panel- fellow aussie Jason Donovan on his right, and fellow weird musician, and fellow weird comedian, Paloma Faith and Tim Key on his left. He had plenty of material on them all, even a little screwing with Tim in Intros.

Even better, Tim donated his piano talents to the Intros round, as he gave both teams a ‘Tim’ card, saying he’d help them out with a piano rendition of the intro in question, which was a great touch. His jokes, and autocue reading, take him down a few pegs, as well as the quality of the ongoing ‘bow and arrow’ joke directed at DJ Target. He could have done better, but I’m still quite happy this show happened.

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#27- Alice Cooper (Series 25 Episode 7)

Alice Cooper is probably the NMTB producers’ greatest triumph- not only getting him to come on back in Series 14 and joke around with Mark Lamar, but getting the so-called Prince of Darkness back to host in Series 25. Ohhh, let me tell you, the opening moments of the show were followed by a great deal of geeking out on my end. Then, I saw Alice Cooper the man, rather than Alice Cooper the performer, do his greatest strength- amidst the black smoke and lightning, he grew a goofy smile, and, like the uncle who’d just made a toast at a wedding, semi-pathetically asked everyone to ‘siddown’.

Alice Cooper’s strength is his ability to be, you know, ALICE COOPER, while at the same time, still be able to come off as a normal dude from the midwest. In hosting the show, this really came off well- he wielded his rock cred with a smile and grin, and quizzed the panel on the name of his new album as a twist. But still, he came off as one of the nicest guys in rock’n’roll, and even managed to throw in his Elvis story, which I’d heard before, but was even funnier when surrounded by Noel and Phill.

Still, some of the prompter reads needed some work, and Alice wasn’t a terribly active administrator, but I didn’t care. He was ALICE COOPER- he could be as good as he wanted to be.


#26- Jack Dee (Series 24 Episode 3 & Series 25 Episode 2)

The trouble you can get with bringing someone back a second time is that they can back away from what made them great the first time and instead stick to what’s easy, and hand in a less-than-favorable result. And that, sadly, applies to the eternally-dour Jack Dee.

Jack’s first go-around was fantastic, thanks to the influence of a certain pair of Irish chipmunks to send Jack into a near-tailspin for most of the show, and give him enough comedic fodder to remain grumpy for the entire show. Jack can read off the prompter well, and like we saw in his Guest Panelist show, he’s very savvy and inclusive when he needs to be, sort of behind the guise of this character. He didn’t reinvent the wheel, but his hosting skills were outshone by his ability to work off the cuff and keep screwing with Jedward and the rest of the panelists.

The problem he had in the 2nd show was that he didn’t really have a natural source of grumpiness, and the show had to center the show around Jack being grumpy, complete with digressions and prop-related asides that fell flat. It felt manufactured, rushed, and fake, and while Jack did the best he could to still give funny moments, he was dwarfed by the production team’s intervention…when they clearly didn’t need to intervene.

Jack’s a great talent, and had a great first show, but the weak quality of his first show pulled him down a tad farther than I would have liked.

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#25- Adam Buxton (Series 25 Episode 4)

Adam Buxton’s hosting tenure was responsible for one bit I really, really hated…and another bit that makes me laugh to this date. The fact that he’s #25 on the countdown means that the second one won out a little bit.

Adam was another victim of the show tailoring the specific episode to the host in Series 25. Between every round, Adam sang a self-written jingle, describing the next round, done in a specific style. I…did not like this. Not one bit. I do love the fact that they were all written by Buxton, and the fact that he was really into it, but I felt like it took too much away from the quiz, and since Adam hadn’t really made a big deal about being a radio personality on his prior 2 shows, it was sort of an odd angle to go about. So, love the ambition, hate the execution.

His other innovation was the final round, where, instead of Next Lines, he’d read Youtube comments left on videos featuring the panel (and other vids), and asked them to fill in the blank. In concept, I wasn’t too pleased, but once this round got going…oh dear lord, I was in tears. The second he started imitating the voice of commenter ‘GerryBaboona’, who said, on the subject of magician Dynamo, ‘DIS GUY MUST BE AN ALIEN OR SUTIN’, and going off on a bit there, I was gone. And the round just got funnier and funnier from there.

Adam’s hosting abilities were great, and he, for the most part, knew how to keep people engaged. I took away some points for the jingles, but I think he was a terrific host.

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#24- Nick Grimshaw (Series 26 Episode 4)

Nick Grimshaw had a pretty difficult task lined up for him- not only did he have to host Buzzcocks, but he had to host one of the most ambitious themed-Buzzcocks shows in years. The ‘Hey Mr. DJ’ show, which features ample screen-time for guests Pat Sharp, Tony Blackburn and Mike Read (all three Buzzcocks royalty, by the way), was engineered to have a new element to the game, and be even more live and innovative than the rest of the show. So while Grimshaw didn’t exactly succeed with flying colors, he did a pretty nice job of keeping the ship tight.

He was great at engineering the soundboard of DJ sounds, and knowing when to hand it off to the three guests, as well as keeping the DJ element present and including them when necessary. He was also great at reading the prompter and keeping some guests into the mix. The one flaw of his is that he wasn’t always there to bring humor right off the bat, as he was a bit preoccupied with things, but luckily Nancy Dell’Olio was on hand to provide several cc’s of unintentional humor, and Fred Macpherson and Joe Lycett were there to spin the humor back onto her. So, honestly, having Nick not really be the funniest guest host wasn’t really a problem, as the show was insanely funny anyway.

A solid start from the so-called ‘Savior of Buzzcocks’, especially considering the workload he was given.

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#23- John Hannah (Series 27 Episode 1)

Admittedly, John Hannah was a very odd choice to host the series premiere of Buzzcocks. He’d been a character actor for years, most famously appearing as the gay widower in Four Weddings and a Funeral, but he’d never really been a spotlight type, so even he admitted he was an odd choice. However, the first second of Hannah’s energy, charisma, and exuberance, I kinda knew we were gonna be alright.

Hannah’s show was essentially Tennant lite. He had a good show, was great at interacting with the panel and reading from the prompter. Plus, his actor cred shone through a few times, during a bit where, as a Kiss song played, he mimed passing a blunt to Phill’s panel. The whole time he just seemed really happy to be there, which I love.

The big moment that vexes me happened in Next Lines, where John recited lines from his speech at the end of Four Weddings, next to a picture of the deceased professor. It vexes me because I’m not sure whether or not the producers booked him JUST BECAUSE of Four Weddings, and just because that moment was gonna happen. Either way, the panelists’ way of reacting was friggin’ hysterical, especially Noel’s addition of ‘My Sharona’.

So John Hannah, despite not being anyone’s first choice to host a great show, hosted a great show. Just not quite memorable enough to top this piece of Buzzcocks royalty at #22…

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#22- Jonathan Ross (Series 18, Episode 1)

Wossy was, in fact, the very first guest host that Buzzcocks ever had, and he was vocal about the fact that he did the show as a favor to Mark Lamarr, who, at that point, was only taking a break due to mental exhaustion (or Toyah exhaustion). To say that Ross was a natural for the job was an understatement- he’d been appearing on the show since the beginning, and knew the exact beats Mark hit as host. He spent some time screwing with Tom from McFly, rolled his eyes at the antics of Bill Bailey and Teddy Mitchell (or Bill and Ted), and kept the game rolling, though stopping to make his usual amount of fun, quick-paced digressions. Said digressions aren’t really for me, and made the show kind of hard to edit, as the first round squeezed Intros-to-Next Lines into the 2nd half of the broadcast. So in terms of hosting and keeping the emphasis on the quiz, he wasn’t great…but in terms of everything else, he was Jonathan Ross hosting Buzzcocks, and it went exactly was well as you would have thought.

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#21- Frank Skinner (Series 23 Episode 5)

Frank Skinner was responsible for guesting on a supremely good Series 5 episode…another really nice Series 6 episode, and being the best Guest Captain of Series 22. So I had no doubt in my mind that he’d be a fantastic host, and while he didn’t completely outdo my expectations, not well enough to land in the Top 20, he still managed to host a bang-up show, and was able to be himself.

Frank’s best stuff came from screwing with panelist Tinchy Stryder over his height, his fame, and ‘de knickaz’. He was very fun off-the-cuff, reacting to the panel like Mark would, and keeping the show going like Mark would. He’s also responsible for one of my favorite callbacks in the show’s history. Jon Richardson’s constant guess for Intros was ‘Winds of Change’, by the Scorpions, so Frank was able to get lyrics from that song into Next Lines…and Jon couldn’t get it!

Honestly, what keeps Frank out of the top 20 was the fact that, with the exception of the things i mentioned, I can’t remember a ton about his episode. He was obviously a fantastic host, with some funny material, but the folks in the Top 20 gave me a little more to take away than Frank did, not to disparage him whatsoever.

So, those are the Middle 20. Expect the Top 20 very soon, and expect the #1 spot to be fairly obvious if you’ve been reading the blog.

Every Never Mind the Buzzcocks Guest Host, Ranked (Part One)

I’ve got a few different ways of wrapping up the ubiquitous Nevermind Watchdown planned for the next few days. I figured since this one only refers to a specific timeline of Buzzcocks history, I’d start with that one. So, we’re gonna count down every single person who’s ever guest-hosted an episode, from the bottom to the top.

Several criteria have been taken into account, including hosting skills, funny material, the overall quality of the episode, and the memorability/repetition. So if you were a host who ran a shipshape panel show, made a ton of great jokes, hosted a fantastic episode and came back for an equally great appearance, you’re probably gonna rank highly. People who’ve hosted multiple songs will be subjected to an average- so if you hosted one fantastic show and one terrible show, the average might drag you down a bit. Or, in the case of a certain Mr. Whitehall, if you hosted two terrible shows and one surprisingly fantastic show, you’re only gonna rise a smidge.

Everyone who hosted from Series 18, as well as from Series’ 23-27, is illegible, save for two names…Simon Amstell and Rhod Gilbert. As they ended up hosting series’ of the show, it’s kind of obvious that their ‘audition shows’ in the Guest Host series were successful. Additionally, one of them may have hosted a show that wasn’t really indicative how how their full-series went. So, for the sake of continuity, they’re not included here.

On with the rankings, from #s 59 to 41:

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#59: Tim Westwood (Series 24 Episode 7)

(fixes palm to temple)

Somebody had to come in last, and if it was somebody other than Westwood, I’d have seriously question the quality of guest hosts Buzzcocks had. Westwood, to his credit, was himself, didn’t change for the recording. However, that was also his biggest problem- this childish, unsophisticated, boorish DJ was the absolute wrong fit for the show, constantly referring to Phill Jupitus as ‘Uncle Phill’, and trying to keep the show hip and cool while simultaneously dating it with every colloquialism and slang phrase. The show’s runner, the ‘wheel of JLS’, was even shoddier with Westwood at the helm, and not even Aston Merrygold could escape from the banality. Hell, Noel had to stop the show at one point to correct Westwood’s atrocious delivery on a joke, which resulted in an even more painful, awkward telling of it.
Just…the absolute worst. And probably my least favorite episode of the show.

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#58- Mark Ronson (Series 24, Episode 1)

Say what you will about Mark Ronson’s achievements in the world of producing, helping Adele produce ’18’, and currently prepping the latest Queens of the Stone Age album, but when he showed up on the Series 24 premiere, something felt…off. Especially considering his boilerplate-but-harmless appearance guest-captaining the Series 22 premiere. This Mark felt distracted, lost, and…for lack of a better word, high off his tits. I’m not sure what kind of substance Mark was on that night, but his autocue readings were a series low, and his joke-readings were just as appalling as Westwood’s. Plus, his appearance looked straight out of a bad sequel to The Mask.
Despite this, I will say his moment of geeking out to ‘Captain Cabinet’ with Noel was pretty great, but he seemed dead and blurred for the rest of the show.

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#57: Kristen Schaal (Series 27 Episode 5)

As much as I love Kristen on Bob’s Burgers, and on 30 Rock, leaving her to her own devices as guest host was a mistake, as she was annoying and yelly for most of the show. Kristen’s known for this childlike, high-pitched, goofy, borderline psychotic demeanor (So Louise Belcher, essentially), and it was off-putting for the panelists, as well as for the audience. The producers’ decision to stock the show with 3 X-Factor personnel who all knew each other…and David O’Doherty, who only knew Kristen, was also a mistake, as the dynamics were mixed and flawed from the start. The boorish show was capped off by a dastardly plot to give the show to Kristen’s pal Noel by swerving next lines in his favor, which pissed off Phill’s team. Just an unfortunately unwatchable show from someone who’s best suited for an ensemble.

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#56- Ne-Yo (Series 26 Episode 6)

That picture just about says it all. Ne-Yo just thinking to himself ‘how the fuck did I get here?’

To be fair, Ne-Yo tried, quite hard actually, to make the most of a booking that’d obviously been handed off at random, but his autocue readings, his unexcited demeanor, and his slowly growing confusion as to what the hell was going on around him, led to a less-than-favorable performance, one where it seemed like the well-stocked panel was carrying the show forward despite him. It didn’t help that Noel, David O’Doherty AND Stacey Solomon were there to take his relaxed demeanor and make him regret it. In all fairness, this was a pretty nice show, and the panel was pretty sharp, but Ne-Yo’s performance detracted from what could have been a great one, ironically, by simply not wanting to let himself love us.

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#55- Juliette Lewis (Series 24 Episode 10)

Along the same school as Ne-Yo, in that the people who do the bookings for the show probably put up their hands and shrugged, and Juliette Lewis probably wasn’t doing anything that week…and probably agreed thanks to the promise of booze. I mean, on one hand she was happy, and in a great mood, but on the other hand she was so wasted that you really couldn’t have expected a coherent show out of her. She also didn’t really know how to host, as she gave teams points for deliberating between the correct answer, and just sort of kept the game on autopilot, again, leaving the panelists to carry the game by themselves. I mean, with Vic Reeves there you really didn’t need her, but the fact that she was so out of it definitely detracted from the show. That’s the main problem with Juliette- she was a distraction rather than an addition.

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#54- Cilla Black (Series 25 Episode 10)

When someone with legitimate old-school mystique around them hosts the show, you kinda want them to pull through and knock it out of the park. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and the people you’ve been building up in your head as these legendary, indestructible figures are a now kinda senile and scattered. This was unfortunately the case for the great Cilla Black, who seemed a bit out of her element hosting Buzzcocks, and aside from a nice little anecdote about the Beatles’ sex habits, never really got the laughs she wanted (that weren’t unintentional). It felt like she was being carried by the mystique of what she used to be, rather than what she was trying to be then. Plus, having Angelos Epithimieou on the panel may not have been the best idea for someone who’s easily confused like Cilla Black. So yeah, the thought was in the right place, but it didn’t work out, and that’s kinda sad for someone who had a career like Cilla’s.

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#53- Rizzle Kicks (Series 27 Episode 7)

Ah, yes, the two guys responsible for one of the hardest-to-watch Buzzcocks episodes of all time. It’s not that they weren’t funny- they actually had some nice moments, especially Jordan’s cry of racism when Noel didn’t invite them to watch Grease with him and Paul- but how they handled the Huey Morgan meltdown was pretty mean-spirited. First of all, they kind of goaded him on throughout the show, annoying him to the point that by the time Next Lines came around, he was sick of them, to the point where he, yes, smashed a mug and stormed off. The sadder part is that up until that point, Rizzle Kicks were merely okay at hosting, without any real memorable moments, or anything that lifted them above par. It’s just the Huey incident, and the way they followed it by making fun of them, that damages their case. They tried, but no matter whose side you’re on in the Huey-Rizzle Kicks debate, you have to admit that they could have handled the whole thing MUCH better.

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#52- Jack Whitehall (Series 23 Episode 4, Series 26 Episode 3, Series 27 Episode 9)

When I was going through a few message boards for Buzzcocks, I got a lot of people saying that Jack Whitehall’s episode was one of the worst, because he’s not at all funny. And as someone who agrees that Jack Whitehall is not funny, I tried to find a silver lining in his episode in Series 23…and I couldn’t. Not for the life of me.

The biggest problem I have with Jack Whitehall, especially on this show, is that he’s way too cheeky and outwardly mean towards people, especially people on the panel. After a low-energy Series 22, I thought that Buzzcocks was trying to get away from someone like Simon Amstell, someone who was busy making it fun for him rather than making it fun for an audience. And through Jack’s first few gigs, that’s what we got- direct meanness, takeaways from the quiz, unfunny jokes, bad hosting technique, and just some really poor shows.

What keeps him off of the bottom spot is the fact that his Series 27 episode was a ton better, but only because he had the kind of panel to buttress his cheekiness. Kriss Akabusi and Alex Brooker swerved the offensive from Jack onto the panel…to the panel onto Jack, thanks to the running gag about Johnny Worrell’s sister. So they managed to get a good episode out of Jack Whitehall, thanks to someone finally getting the best of Jack Whitehall.

#51 – Dale Winton (Series 18 Episode 7)

Series 18’s guest hosts stand out to me, because it’s clear that the producers tried to farm from a wide range of BBC talent, but mainly stuck to a bunch of presenters (Ross, Laverne, Clarkson, Amstell). Dale Winton was the umpteenth presenter to, well, present Buzzcocks, and definitely brings up the rear as far as Series 18 efforts are concerned.

Dale’s main schtick is being an orange gay guy who occasionally hosts Supermarket Sweep- I’ll argue that he was used a ton better in the Series 21 episode he was a panelist on, rather than this episode, where I can barely remember any of his material, mostly just lines had at his expense. I don’t think I need to tell you that he can read a prompter or be good on camera, but I don’t think he was the greatest fit for the host’s chair. Not really for any appalling things he did, but for what he didn’t do, which was make any real impact.

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#50- David Hasselhoff (Series 25 Episode 1)

In 2011, David Hasselhoff was plucked from his steady gig judging for America’s Got Talent to judge…Britain’s Got Talent. It was so close to his old job that the Hoff couldn’t have been able to fuck it up…and yet, he did. Still, while he was farming his comeback in the UK, he stopped by Buzzcocks to host, and it was…memorable. Yeah. Memorable.

Part of Hoff’s appeal is that he’s not exactly what you’d call intentionally funny. The guy’s made a career out of being a joke, whether he’s taking himself too seriously or not seriously enough. He kept the former ideology while hosting Buzzcocks, with some over-the-top autocue reads, bombastic hosting, and general bizarre Hasselhoffishness. Honestly, his biggest problem was his ultimate inability to take the show seriously, taking some time out of autocue jokes to break character and go ‘this is true’ or ‘this is gonna get me fired’. You could see Hoff the character cracking to reveal Hoff the man.

Like Whitehall, Hoff’s finest moments here were when the joke was on him, including a moment where he had to read a nasty joke about Simon Cowell and Sinitta, and you could see the enthusiasm drain from his face with every word, knowing he’d be losing his job soon.

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 9.55.35 PM.png#49- Dizzee Rascal (Series 27 Episode 11)

While Dizzee’s show was a solid middle-of-the-road one, fueled by some insane panel moments, a botched backflip, and Jamie Cullum’s piano playing, Dizzee’s hosting was less middle of the road and more tar off the road. The guy’s idea of hosting was just sitting around and watching the panelists go, instead of realizing that he could occasionally chime in. He kept a very low-key, defensive approach to the game, which ultimately stopped his episode from making a real impact.

His only highlights were his brief abilities to be himself, breaking into an impromptu version of Bonkers, and laughing at an autocue joke about himself. Other than that, not much lifted him off the ground.

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#48- Mark Watson (Series 23 Episode 7)

My main gripe with Mark Watson’s show wasn’t his humor, his hosting, or anything. I simply thought he was a much better panelist than he was a host. Mark’s best stuff comes from adding onto material rather than initiating it, and with him as the anchor this show, it wasn’t as successful. The show was fine enough, if kinda low-key, but Mark took a quieter, less animated approach to reading and hosting, and fell victim to a gimmicky bit involving Chico, who, according to Mark, had ‘been down there since 2006′. So yeah, while he’s a funny chap, and had some great Buzzcocks’, his hosting gig was disappointing to me.

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#47- Stephen Mangan, (Series 26 Episode 10)

What the producers would do rather often during this era was take a host that didn’t bring too much to the table and assign them a gimmick to weave through, rather than spin them on their own merits. With Stephen Mangan, they made his episode the ‘World Music Special’, which detracted from a quiet enough panel. While the gimmick was initially amusing, there wasn’t a great deal that was fresh after a while, and once you took away the theme, Stephen didn’t have a ton of great material, despite having his usual charisma and quick lines. I mean, Stephen tried, but what can you do when the producers are more focused on what the theme/gimmick can do than what you can do?

#46- Lauren Laverne, (Series 18 Episode 4)

Another presenter-friendly Series 18 booking, and another great personality that failed to break out of a ho-hum show. I’ll give Lauren credit for trying, as she’s one of the better recurring guests of the show’s history, and she used the personality to her advantage with her autocue reads, but I can’t remember much at all about her material, or her dynamic with the panel. If anything, this was more Rhod Gilbert’s show than it was Lauren’s- the fact that you could see that a panelist would be a better pick as host than the person actually hosting wasn’t a great sign. Again, Lauren would have much better luck as a panelist, but her hosting gig, while not particularly bad, couldn’t really make itself memorable.

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#45- Claudia Winkleman, Series 23 Episode 6

Even from her opening moments, Claudia Winkleman knew she wasn’t necessarily the producers’ first choice: “I’m Claudia Winkleman, and that can only mean one thing…Biggins is busy.” With Buzzcocks, you can’t really be sure if this is an indirect slam or an allusion to a booking that fell through, but if it’s the latter, that does explain why Claudia didn’t have a ton to do that set her apart from the pack, other than having fun and doing good-enough hosting and reading. Honestly, what brings her down this low is the forgettability of her hosting- I remember more about Harry Shearer and Jamelia than I do about her hosting, which is kinda sad. Yeah, Claudia’s a great addition to the fold, and her stuff as a panelist, and on the Big Fat Quiz, is exemplary, but she didn’t have a ton to do here. Maybe an appearance from Christopher Biggins would have at least been more memorable.

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#44- David O’Doherty, Series 24 Episode 5

David O’Doherty HOSTING Buzzcocks. In my head, this was a fantastic idea, and I was kinda looking forward to the show as it got closer, knowing his bizarre humor, especially relating to pandas or megaphones. But when I got there…the producers decided to throw me a curveball, and, like the Mangan show, made it entirely gimmick based, with almost no room for David to be himself and make weird, fun little jokes, because the entire show was beating the one-joke premise that Shakira was supposed to host, and David O’Doherty is absolutely nothing like Shakira. Maddeningly, that’s really the only takeaway from this show that it was the ‘Shakira show’, not the ‘David O’Doherty show’. Again, as funny as he is, especially on shows where he was a panelist, the producers shafted him when it came time for him to host.

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#43- Liza Tarbuck, Series 26 Episode 11

We’ve gotten to the part of the countdown where some of these guest-hosts were so middle of the road, so good-but-passable that honestly anybody could have hosted, and the game would have gone on the exact same way. Liza, despite her enthusiasm and the fact that her birthday was the day after the taping, hosted a very middle of the road show. She was good, didn’t make any wrong moves, but didn’t do anything too memorable, either. When it came time to screw with guest Rita Ora for her dog fixation, it was mostly Jason Manford and Noel Fielding who took the offensive. I’d actually compare her material here to anything from an episode of QI with her- amusing, good for a second’s glance, but nothing too extraordinary.

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#42- Alex James (Series 23 Episode 3)

I’m not gonna sit here and lie and say that Alex James wasn’t happy to be here- he was thrilled, enthusiastically blasting his band’s ‘Song 2’, and handing out his trademark cheeses throughout the show. What keeps him this low is the fact that he didn’t especially do much else, other than cover those same two bases over the course of the night. It’s obvious he loves the show, and he loves the experience, but his reads were slightly askew, and he let Peter Serafinowicz and Holly Walsh do most of the comedic heavy lifting for the night. That’s not to say that James made no impact on Buzzcocks history- his eventual return as a panelist was pretty cool, and his role as narrator of the eventual retrospective series ‘What A Load of Buzzcocks’ was a charismatic touch on the generally pretty good run. But the hosting gig of his wasn’t as good as could have been because it only scratched the surface.

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#41- Will Young (Series 25 Episode 5)

Yeah, you can tell by that first shot that the former Pop Idol winner wasn’t 100% into this hosting gig. Young stuck with a very laid-back approach to hosting, and a general demeanor that said that the producers had waited about 8 years too late to book him. I mean, he was harmless enough, and did well enough keeping the game going, but his autocue reads were less than favorable, and he didn’t seem terribly interested in the proceedings. The one saving grace of his episode was the fact that Phill and the panel were able to rip him a new one over allegedly having sex in a bin, and the fact that Will didn’t really know how to break from his hosting demeanor in order to respond.

That’s all I’ll do for tonight- expect #s 40 to 21 to come very soon. Expect a bit more optimism in those.

The Final Nevermind Watchdown: S28E12, or ‘This is the wrong show for THAT shit!”

(long sigh)

Well, this is it. The last Never Mind the Buzzcocks episode ever. The series went for 28 seasons, three permanent hosts, four permanent captains, and seven Richard Fairbrass appearances. And it wasn’t angry guests, or appalled network execs that did the show in, but a lack of ratings, and a network that wanted to move on to other programming. While I’d normally criticize BBC for not giving Buzzcocks a chance…they’d given them 27.

So tonight’s not only the last episode of the show, but the last Christmas episode of the show. A few returning players are here, like hateable X-Factor judge Louis Walsh and legendary Sex Pistols member Glen Matlock, as well as some newcomers, like comedian Lloyd Langford and R&B/Pop singer Melissa Steel.

Everyone’s in costume, too- Louis is early Yoko Ono, Glen is a ‘Cockney John Lennon’, Melissa’s wearing a puffy coat like the East 17 music video, BOTH PHILL AND NOEL are Roy Wood, and Rhod…is dressed like Mariah Carey.
Noel: “You look like Benedict Cumberbatch in drag!”

Rhod eventually asks Lloyd, in choir boy garb, who he’s come as.
Lloyd: “I’ve, uh, come undercover from Operation Yewtree”

Rhod, for his Album Covers round, asks some good rhetoricals: “Do Daniel Bedingfield album covers always feature a bloke called Daniel…in bed…in a field? Do Garbage covers always have a picture of Westlife on the front?”
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Rhod: “…I’m waiting for the defense!”
Louis: “No!”

Rhod, on the first album cover, with a guy with a beard looking at the camera: “What d’you think we’d see if we panned back a bit?”
Noel: “Children’s shoes?”
Audience groans at this
Rhod, trying: “Yes, because who doesn’t love…a children’s SHOEMAKER??”

Rhod, motioning to his costume: “It’s about an A-cup girl.”
Melissa: “Oh, you’re bigger than an A, darling..”

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 9.44.39 PM.pngLloyd: “I love my rat so much I let him sleep under my nose.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 9.46.29 PM.pngPhill: “Is that just me, or is that a young Stephen Fry on the right?”

This round was actually really nice, and had a nice, loose feel to it, and we got a ton of personality out of the panelists without needling them. It reminded me of Alice Cooper’s final round, where Wretch-32 just had some really off-the-cuff hysterical answers.

A conversation with Louis about X-Factor stuff leads Noel to bring up Jedward.
Noel: “They were on my team when they were on. They were delightful boys. They ate a whole box of Celebrations before the show, and went out of their FUCKING MINDS…”
That explains a lot.

Phill, continuing reminiscing: “They had a handler with them.”
Noel: “Yeah, a whisperer…”

Phill, to Louis, pre-intros: “I’ll do the bells…and then you do the neighing, and then we’ll really get into it…”
Noel: “This is like the audiobook version of the song…”

Melissa and Noel work really well on Intros. This isn’t a necessarily funny round, but there are some really good intros here. Glen even says one of them sounded exactly like the record.

There’s a nice runner where whenever Rhod announces the scores, Noel overshoots a guess of how many points his team has.
Noel: “42!”
Rhod: “FOUR!”

Once again, this ID Parade has a former X Factor contestant, and Phill’s team needs to guess by voice.

#4 actually does a really good, soulful rendition of the line, even if it’s obviously not her.
Phill: “[Louis’] not actually on the X-Factor right now, sweetheart…this is the WRONG SHOW for that shit!”

Noel, as Louis deliberates: “Has this just turned into a game where Louis’ trying to remember someone he knew in the past?”

Okay, even in its final moments, and even in a pretty okay show, Buzzcocks is able to get one more belly-laugh out of me. For Noel’s ID Parade, Rhod brings out a parade of Snowmen, for the, well, The Snowman animated movie. They’re all snowman mascots, except for #5.
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Audience: “..aaawwww…”
Rhod: “Or #5…..DEATH!!!”

Then, as the real Snowman is revealed, Rhod asks him to have a ‘walk in the air’ around the studio with Noel, and they do that for a bit…until Noel ditches him for one of the fake snowmen, as Rhod screams “NO! NO!” from the sidelines.

The snowman motions to Rhod that there’s a white vinyl of the Snowman coming out soon.
Rhod: ‘When’s it coming out?”
Glen, deadpan: “…Christmas…”

Lloyd, as the Snowman joins his panel, and hugs him: “This looks like a Grindr date that’s gone badly wrong…”

Overall: Not the heftiest, but a smooth, fun, inoffensive end to a generally pretty good season. There wasn’t really a standout panelists, though everyone had moments to shine. Glen’s aloofness suited him, and he seemed like he had a nice time. Louis’ always happy to be on. Lloyd had some nice lines, and Melissa was a really cool personality to have on. There were some good moments, though not too much to lift us over ‘passable’, but enough to end the season, and the show run, on something of a high note.

Best Regular: Noel
Best Guest: Louis
Best Runner: Noel missing the score

Best Episode: Episode 4, quite possibly the crowning achievement of the post Amstell-Buzzcocks era. James Acaster had a career performance, there was talk of deep-beavering, HarMar Superstar’s belly, and Rhod’s botched bongo playing, which is probably the hardest I’ve laughed at Buzzcocks in years.
2nd Best Episode: Episode 3, the John Cooper Clarke show, where the punk poet gave this weird amount of energy to a show that clearly didn’t need it, thanks to Amelia Lily’s baby noises and Sara Pascoe’s wonderfully adorable ID Parade performance.
3rd Best Episode: Episode 8. I nearly went with Episode 2, the Seann Walsh and Stacey Solomon show, but Episode 8 is probably the most feel-good show they’ve had that didn’t include Bob Mortimer. Paloma was even more adorable than usual, Loyd Grossman was an odd but game presence, Charlie Simpson kept going after lemon drizzle cake, and there was a great moment with a live rabbit AND with Rhod’s dog Rosie.
Worst Episode: Episode 10. Everything that worked in the first few episodes fell apart, with Rhod’s hosting becoming too lax and strict, and the panel not getting enough time to shine.
Best Regular: Noel Fielding, for taking one last chance to push his bizarre humor to high gear, and win with personality.
Best Comedian Panelist: James Acaster, Episode 4. There’s a ton of competition, but I don’t think anybody had a night like James did. He kept the entire show moving by his command, and was responsible for some of the funniest moments of a truly hysterical show (plus, his weakness is George Harrison music!) Honorable Mentions go to Seann Walsh, Sara Pascoe, Paul Foot, Joe Lycett, Aisling Bea, Sarah Millican, Katherine Ryan, Rob Beckett, Romesh Ranganathan and Bobby Mair.
Best Musician Panelist: Michael Ball, Episode 7. Tougher competition because while there were a ton of nice ones, nobody had a flat-out dominant show like Ana in S27 or Mark Hoppus in S26. Michael Ball is an exception, as he had even more fun than he did on his previous two performances, read some Adult Lit while Phill licked his ear, and correcting people on Streisand lyrics. Nearly went with Nicole Scherzinger, Lethal Bizzle, Charli XCX, Charlie Simpson, Glen Matlock, Professor Green, Matty Healy, Van McCann. Also would have gone with John Cooper Clarke here, but he blurred the line too much between comic and musician that it didn’t make sense.
Biggest Dartboard: Stacey Solomon, Episode 2. As per usual.
Most Confused Panelist: Stacey Solomon, Episode 2. Again, as per usual.
Best Sport: Louis Walsh, Episode 12, by taking all the Westlife slams and X-Factor jokes in stride, and just having a good time.
Best Runner: Rhod’s Invisible Bongos, starting in Episode 2 and popping up in a few more episodes. This one was the gift that kept on giving, leading to that insanely funny moment in Episode 4.

So, that was Never Mind the Buzzcocks. There were highs (Mark Lamarr’s era, the Donny Tourette show, Frankie Boyle), and lows (Series 17, Series 22, Tim Westwood), but I’m still glad I watched through this entire series, and I’ve learned a ton more about British music, British comedy, and toblerone bars.

Next…I’m gonna at least try to finish this series of QI, but I have another Watchdown planned. It’s slightly less expansive than Buzzcocks, but like QI this show is still going, and like Buzzcocks I have different hosts and regulars to combat and clash. Also, unlike QI AND Buzzcocks, I’m not gonna be watching this down for the first time. This is a show I’ve watched for years, and I’ve briefly skimmed through, and I’m deciding that it’s time I do a proper, full rewatch. I may polarize some of the fans who only read the blog for Buzzcocks write-ups…but I’m secretly hoping said Buzzcocks fans also enjoy some short-form improvisational comedy…

Nevermind Watchdown: S28E11, or Have Some Respect for the Host, STEVE!

Tonight, we have the PENULTIMATE BUZZCOCKS. The second-to-last episode ever. And hopefully this one will be a good one, as after a rousing start to the series, things have gotten off the rails a bit. We need to finish strong, not weakly.

None of tonight’s panelists have been on before, but I have heard of one of them, and that’s Steve Aoki, EDM heavy-hitter. Rumer is a 70s-aping pop singer, Yasmine Akram’s a comedian and actress that’s made out with Benedict Cumberbatch onscreen, and Bobby Mair’s our ‘requisite comedian’ for the night.

Rhod reads in Bobby’s intro that he’s Justin Bieber’s third cousin. “IS THIS TRRRUE?”
Bobby: “Yeah…I wouldn’t lie to you just to get on the show…”

Rhod indirectly says that Bobby’s not gonna meet Obama anytime soon.
Bobby: ‘What are you talking about? I have a trustworthy face! When you look at my face, you think…’babysitter’…”
Noel: “No, when I look at YOUR face, I think ‘first person to get killer in a horror film…”

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 8.53.20 PM.pngBobby: “Look at this team, though. Look at us! I feel normal for once! I mean, we look like the extras in a heroin den…”

Rhod says that Phill’s ‘Blurred Videos’ group is the most successful Danish band.
Rumer: “Is it…ABBA…but they’ve moved to Denmark…?”

The first round is kind of a dud, because we don’t get a ton of talk about the artists, or the progression of the round.

Phill and Rumer’s first intro is a mess, and Rhod basically says “Yasmine, I’ll give you a point and a biscuit if you get that one…I have the card in front of me and I can’t even recognize it.”

Rhod says that he’ll give Yasmine the point if she names literally any song.
Yasmine, trying: “Oh, it’s…David Bowie’s…favorite song…Man on the Moon.”
Rhod: “…I just gave you pretty much a free point there. All you had to do was mention a song…and you couldn’t”
Bobby: “I got this one…Candle in the Wind, Diana’s funeral version.”
Rhod: “…of course, THAT IS A SONG…you can have a point.”

Rhod mentions the name of the Earth, Wind and Fire song, and someone from the audience cheers.
Phill: “SEE, THEY GOT IT!!”
Rhod: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve got special guests- Earth Wind and Fire are in tonight…”

Yasmine: “Ah, I only know it when the singing comes in…”
Rhod: “Yes, that is the problem with the intros round…”

Rhod reveals that Bobby got beaten up on stage once.
Bobby: “Yeeeeah, a man punched me in the face a lot…the audience just WATCHED…which made me think that maybe the gig wasn’t going as well as I thought it was…and then one of my friends came on and pulled him off…”
Phill, taking this the wrong way: “Good work!”

Steve, giving Bobby a clue for the Bob Marley intro: “What are you thinking about, when I go like that…and I’m pulling my hair like this?”
Bobby: “…having sex with you from behind?”

Bobby trying to get the Marley song seems to be a herculean effort, because he doesn’t know music. Unlike, say, Paul Foot, Bobby sifting for clues is a bit funnier because the joke isn’t exactly belabored, and he seems pretty earnest about wanting to know it.

Bobby, as the real ‘Could You Be Loved’ plays in: “I’VE NEVER HEARD THIS SONG BEFORE!”
Rhod: “I wish he was joking.”

Steve, pre Flying Lizards intro: “This is a tough one, but you might get it because you’re weird and it’s a weird band-”
Bobby: “Oh, so I’M WEIRD NOW! I don’t know music, but I have WEIRD KNOWLEDGE!”

Bobby, with the envelope covering his face: “I DON’T KNOW!”
Bobby: ‘SHUT UP…Is that YASMINE?’

ID Parade happens halfway through the show. I’m hoping this show turns out to be bottom-heavy, because that Intros round picked up a TON of slack.

Phill: “Uhhh…it’s #2, but…actually, no. It’s #2.”
Rhod: “How do you know that?”
Phill: “Because that’s Linda Lewis!”
Rhod: “Okay, let’s see if you know ALL their names!”

Noel’s ID Parade gets probably one of the biggest ID Parade gets, Terry Chimes, the drummer for the Clash. Phill’s probably going nuts in his chair.

Bobby: “5 looks like a Butcher…3 looks like Steve Buscemi if things didn’t work out…”

Steve has taken the defensive for most of the show, but when Terry Chimes comes out he gets some rock and roll chills, and talks about how the Clash are one of his influences, even doing a bowing motion when the real Terry is revealed. Steve’s having a quieter show, but he’s anything but a NPC.

Even better, Phill manages to get Terry, one of his idols, to join his team for Next Lines. That’s gotta be awesome for Phill.

PLUS…Steve mentioned earlier that he enjoys ‘cake-ing’ his fans, and one of his fans is on hand as a member of the Terry Chimes ID Parade…who’s come here to be caked by Steve Aoki. That’s fantastic. If it weren’t for a dead first round, this show would be a truly great one.

As Steve is deliberating, Rhod’s standing behind him…and Noel is sloooowly trying to tip the cake onto Rhod’s face. They have to stop and laugh at the botched attempt, which got a bit of cake on Rhod’s jacket.
Steve: “I didn’t do anything! I swear!”

As Steve gets up in front of the lineup with the cake, Bobby runs up to take #2’s spot. Man, things just got ELECTRIC right at Intros.

Steve, not knowing it’s a harder cake, ends up projectile launching the cake at #3’s face, making his face even redder than it was.
Noel: “#3’s gonna have to go to hospital…”

Steve, after an insane final round: “…I can’t believe what just happened.”
Phill: “Oh, so YOU throw a gateau at a person, and suddenly the SHOW’S weird?”

Overall: Started absolutely lifeless, and slowly, surely, it became a wobbly but still electric show. It helped that Bobby Mair was injecting the show with life from moment one, but an insanely good Intros round, and an even better ID Parade, boosted the momentum. Steve had a fun show, if slightly disappointing given that he’s Steve Aoki, Yasmine had some nice moments, Rumer took a backseat, and Dr. Terry Chimes deserves a bonus shout out for helping keep the momentum going.

Best Regular: Noel
Best Guest: Bobby
Best Runner: Bobby doesn’t know any music

Nevermind Watchdown: S28E10, or We Happen to Know that it’s Multiple Choice..

Now for another Buzzcocks, this one being the third-to-last in the series, and a return appearance for Kym Marsh from Hear’Say, a debut for the wonderfully dour Romesh Ranganathan, plus appearances from Charlie and Jake from Rixton, and Van McCann, lead singer of ‘Soundcheck’ rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen. That’s a cool enough panel, I’d say.

(FYI- I’m not sure which one’s Jake and which one’s Charlie, because unlike Daphne & Celeste, and unlike Rizzle Kicks, I can’t really be bothered to tell them apart.)

Charlie, setting up a story: “We were in this very small studio, VERY SMALL-”
Noel: “How small?”
Jake: “…bout the size of this room.”
Noel: “…sure it wasn’t a cupboard?”

Rhod: “I, and this may surprise a few people, I am a massive fan of Coronation street.”
Van: “Yeah, I’m a massive corry fan m’self.”
Rhod: ‘Alright, let’s have a Corry-off.”

Rhod, to Van: “Do you agree, as a fellow Corry fan, do you agree…that Kym’s character…is a MISERABLE SHIT…”
Kym even laughs this one off.

Rhod even says that he was gonna do a montage of all the ‘Kym being miserable’ moments on Coronation Street, but they wanted too much money, so he does the entire montage himself, just yelling ‘OHHHH GOD’ and stuff in different voices.
Rhod: “OHHHH GOD, OHHHH GOD, STEEEEEVE, OHHHH GOD- And I’m only in January of this year- OHHHHH GOD…”

There’s a great little moment where Rhod mentions that Van tried to get a demo tape to Serge from Kasabian, and Van motions to Noel and goes “it’s his best mate, so gotta be careful…”

Van: “We went to a…man, what’d’you call where you buy a generator from, you know-”
Rhod: ‘A shop?”

This week brings back the Rhod-infused ‘it wasn’t me’ clip, culminating in ‘IT WASN’T BLUDDY ME, ALRIGHT??”

And, as usual, one of Rhod’s offhand accusations gets me: “Did Steppenwolf disband after they accidentally stepped on a wolf?”

Romesh admits that he looks like a photo-negative version of Phill. Man, if Nish Kumar said something like that, the comments section would crucify him.

Rhod, after a Romesh anecdote: “You know what I just remembered?…you got some options, it’s multiple choice..”
Yeah, another mistake from Rhod, but it’s done in such a characteristic way that I can’t really stay mad at him.

Rhod: “Let me just bring in the other team here. Don’t give away the answer, if you know it…”
Noel, dumbfounded: “…well then what are we supposed to do, then??Just stare at you?”
Rhod: “I just wanted you to be a part of the quiz!”
Noel: “What, do we hold up thought bubbles?”

Rhod asks his question for Noel’s team.
Noel, after a beat: “…we happen to know that it’s multiple choice…”

One thing I’ve noticed about this episode is that it’s much less structured and more out-of-sorts than the rest of the show, just sort of going off the rails at any point, and not even in a particularly fun way.

Jake, on Bono’s shoes: “Yeah, I remember hearing about this one. He fell off the stage, that gig…he went too close to the Edge…”
The audience groans. Jake playfully tells them to fuck off.
Jake: “…thank you very much, thanks for coming out…”
Rhod: “This is why we brought two of them, so one of them could leave after a joke like that…”

Rhod, as Romesh started as a misguided rapper, says that all of Phill and Rixton’s will be rap tunes,
Phill, immediately: ‘I don’t know this one at all, so you two can crack on…”
Romesh, as Phill leaves: “Are you really doing this?”
Phill: “What’s the point of having two extras if I can’t nip off?”
Noel: “Look at them two, home alone…”

As Rhod, once again this series, refuses a point for Romesh due to specificity.
Phill: “You don’t want to get on the wrong side of MC Ranga!”
Romesh: “…yeah, I will BANGA!”
Rhod: “…not sure who the victim is in that…”

Romesh: “…is it Wild Thing by Tone Loc?”
Rhod: “…it is-”

Rhod, on Noel and Van’s first intro: “…it sounds like a Welsh blacksmith singing along to ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’…”

Romesh, on the Little Mix track: “That sounds a bit dark and heavy though…”
Phill: “Just now when you said the words ‘Dark and Heavy’, I thought that was the name of our cop show…”

Noel and Van’s Mamma Mia intro is so iconic that the entire panel comes in on Van’s cue. It’s a pretty nice intro, too.
Plus, Kym nails the first lyric of the song, and Phill keeps the intro going. It’s a really sweet moment.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 10.59.26 PM.png“#3, Push-kin comes to shove-skin”
There’s a nice 10 seconds of Noel’s team laughing at this guy’s appearance.

Romesh’s stare down, and subsequent freestyle rapping, of the ID Parade gets some points for being funnier IMO than any of Paul Foot’s.

Overall: A noticeably weaker installment, awkwardly done thanks to some botched presenting from Rhod tonight. There had been some things that weren’t really problems before, but tonight his strict scoring and lax hosting impeded what could have been a fun show. The panel was nice, with Romesh having the standout night, and the other three doing merely alright. But there was just so much that didn’t work tonight, which is sad, because I don’t want this series to end on a bad skid of shows.

Best Regular: Phill
Best Guest: Romesh
Best Runner: OHHHH STEEEVE….

Nevermind Watchdown: S28E09, or It’s That Kind of Quick Thinking That Got Me This Job!



This one’s allegedly a weird one, and from the lineup I can sorta tell why. Yes, Rob “What were you doing looking at my dad?” Beckett is here, but we also have Charli XCX, who’s collaborated with Iggy Azalea and did an SNL gig a few years ago (with Martin Freeman). And we have Phil Daniels…who played the lead in the Quadrophenia movie, and did the spoken part on Blur’s Parklife song? This is a ‘bottom of the barrel’ choice that could be good, like John Cooper Clarke, or just weird. Also, we have cellist Grace Chatto, from Clean Bandit. So quality is all over the place tonight.

Charli says she’s really nervous. Phill says that a good way to relieve the tension would be to lick Noel’s face.
Charlie: “Aw, gosh, my dad’s in the audience…”
Noel: “It’s alright, he licked me earlier tonight…”

Grace: “I didn’t even invite my dad…”
Phil: “My dad would be here…but he’s dead.”
Rhod, working an insane tonal shift: “…RIGHT, PARTY ON, DUDES!”

Grace: “I actually spent an amazing night with [Craig David]-”
Phill: “Oooh, hello!”
Rob: “Normally, he gives you a week, not a night.”
Rhod: “What night was it? Was it…”
David clip: “MOOOONDAY.”

Grace talks about Craig performing their song…to them.
Grace: “When it was over, Neil, our violinist, said it was the greatest moment of his entire life.”
Rob: “…what else has Neil done with his life?”

The whole panel’s making fun of Craig’s entirely white house.
Rob: “If the microphone’s white, how did he know where it was?”
Phill: “He got attacked by a polar bear the other day, did you not hear about this?”
Noel: “Are you sure this HAPPENED? You sure you weren’t looking at a Craig David coloring book?”

Rhod: “I challenge you all to not think of another ‘white house’ joke….let’s all just sit here until another one comes…then we’ll take out this gap and look really witty…”
Noel, finally: “…did he come in on a white horse, naked, so it looked like he was just floating?”
Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 9.57.41 PM.png

Rhod: “…by the time we take that gap out, that is gonna look ELECTRIC.”

Rob, trying to guess the 7 Days artist: “Is it a music person?”
Rhod: “It is…welcome to the show…”

Rhod’s positioned in front of the Mariah Carey photo
Rob: “…looks like you’re head’s getting squeezed into her boobs.”
Rhod: [reaches for her boobs]
[Bongo noise plays in]

For a bonus point, Rhod offers up another question.
Rob: “D’we buzz, or do we just…?”
Rhod: “You don’t buzz, because ya haven’t got anything to buzz with…”
Phill: “We’ve got a redundant button here, and I’m quite enjoying it…”
Rhod: “Alright, then, fingers on buzzers. No sound comes out, but I’ll try and LOOK.”
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Rob prefaces the intros round by saying he’s gonna be shit at this.
Rhod: “If you get any of these right, Rob, I will make available to you…any sexual favor you want, FROM ME.”
Phill: “…I am not entirely sure that is an incentive.”

Rhod: “I am yours for the night, if you get this.”
Rob, to Phill and Grace: “Is it hard?”
Rhod: “…not yet.”

Rob’s not getting the first intro, which is done pretty well by Grace and Phill, and Rob’s just passing off.
Rhod eventually comes over and whispers: “…you have to pretend this is a big deal, because it’s Grace’s bloody song.”

Phill, on Noel and Charli getting up for Intros: “Oh, it’s like the bit at the end of the Jungle Book where Mowgli’s with Shere Khan.”
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Noel, taking this a step further: “You sit there, I’ll stand over here, so it’ll be like Life of Pi..”

Phil, guessing randomly for Intros: “Turning Japanese!”
Noel: “…that is a better song…”

Phil, on the Say You’ll be there intro: “I’ll Give You Everything, Spice Girls.”
Charli raises her hands in the air triumphantly, and the audience applauds.
Rhod, standing up: “NO NO NO NO NO NO…”
Even Grace is going ‘THAT IS NOT WHAT IT’S CALLED!”

A huge scuffle breaks out, with Grace yelling at Charli, Charli yelling at Rhod, Rhod yelling at Grace AND Charli, Phill yelling at everyone, and Rob yelling ‘I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING!’

Rhod decides to let Grace, an unabashed Spice Girls fan, do the intro with Noel and Charli. It leads to a great moment, where all three are doing a nice intro, and Phil…without any real options, just gets up and starts going ‘BONG BONG BONG BONG…’

ID Parade, Noel: “Well, Phil’s getting strong vibes off of #5.”
Rhod: “Oh, really? What kind of vibes you getting, Phil?”
Phil: “…strong ones.”

Noel: “I feel like #1’s got the boy band…nose.”
Rhod: “The challenge is not to build one band member out of everyone else’s face.”

Rhod…tells us a story, that’s 100% true.
Rhod: “We’d booked the drummer from Bad Manners…but he got the wrong day…we’ve got no lineup for you this week.
However, Rhod is able to pluck someone out of the audience who’s been in a band, and concocts an ID Parade out of absolutely NOTHING. It’s absolutely fantastic.

Hell, Rhod even invites CHARLI’S DAD, who’s still in the audience, to be a part of the lineup. This is fantastic!

Then, once he gets all 6 set up, Rhod realizes- ‘OH, I’VE GOT TO WRITE THE ‘IS IT #1, #2’, THAT SHIT!” So he races back to his desk. Meanwhile, Phill’s team is still blindfolded.
Noel: “Phill, you look like a ninja turtle…”

And then…Rhod, one last time, asks the guy what the name of the band was.
Phill, with his glasses over his blindfold: “IT’S NUMBER FOUR!”
And…they switch numbers.

And then, Rhod starts announcing the numbers…and Phill’s team is still blindfolded. So Rhod just breaks, looks at the camera, and motions for them to take off the blindfolds. This was a hot mess to film, but it’s a FUN hot mess.

Now, Rhod has to completely improvise the ID Parade intros
#1; Dr. Zero

Phill: ‘When were they active? Normally they give us a time-period.”
Rhod: “…it’s very difficult to ask them now, to be honest.”

Phill just guesses 2.
Phil, who’s SEEN THEM: ‘CAN WE HAVE A GO?”
Rhod: “SHUT UP!”

After Charli’s literally screamed 3 straight next lines.
Phill, a la Comic Book Guy: ‘SHOUTIEST…CONTESTANT…EVER.”

Overall: Not to the high caliber of the season, and generally kind of boilerplate for most of the show, with some exceptions. But that ID Parade round was the right kind of insane.  Yes, Phil and Rob had some nice moments, yes the Intros kerfuffle was great to watch, but it was a strangely edited show that had one takeaway, the ID Parade, that the rest of the show couldn’t match up to. The editing on the panelists wasn’t great, even if Charli was having a phenomenal time, and Grace was in a great mood. It was a flawed show, but not near enough to bring Series 28 down.

Best Regular: Rhod
Best Guest: Charli
Best Runner: Craig David’s extremely white house.